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Diocese introduces new, updated policies


Parishioners of diocesan churches will be impacted by several new and/or updated policies recently approved by the Presbyteral Council and to be promulgated by Bishop R. Walker Nickless on July 1.

Mass intentions and Communion services in the case of an emergency have guidelines and procedures that will be of interest to the faithful. These practices and the issue of low-gluten hosts for those who suffer from celiac disease, as well as specific issues concerning diocesan priests are also addressed. These and other policies will now be part of the Pastoral Manual for the Diocese as particular law.

Mass intentions

The Mass intention policy stipulates the customary Mass offering will be raised to $10.

According to Father Brad Pelzel, vicar general, a donor may designate a larger offering, or a smaller offering, or no offering and “the priest is obligated to offer the intention if it is requested and accepted.”

It has always been the case that Canon Law stipulates that a priest may only retain for himself the offering from one Mass intention per day, no matter how many Masses he celebrates – with the exception of Christmas. What is changed, Father Pelzel noted, is that “we have codified where the money from Masses that have been offered – but the priest is not eligible to receive – will go.”

He added, “It has always been the case that if a parish had more requests for Mass intentions than they could address in one year, that the extra intentions – and the money that went with them – was to be transferred to retired priests or other priests, such as mission priests, who had run out of or did not have any intention requests.”

“There is a substantial difference between the benefits and salaries our retired priests receive and the benefits and salaries of our full-time clergy,” Father Pelzel said. “Like active priests, retired priests are only allowed to receive the cash allowance from one Mass per day. By raising the Mass intention from $5 to $10, this has the potential of raising the income retired priests receive from Mass intentions from approximately $150 per month to $300.”

Mass offerings will continue to be separately maintained from other parish funds. The policy also states, “While it is commendable for the priest to remember various intentions, these cannot be considered part of the intention of the Mass with the offering attached and which always remains separate and distinct.”

“One of the things we need to do is to educate our parishioners on how it is not proper to announce the ‘name’ of the priest’s Mass intention during the Mass, particularly during the prayers of intercession,” Father Pelzel said. “Those are parish intercessions and they are distinct and different from the priest’s Mass intention. If the people want to hear who the priest’s Mass intention is, it can be announced prior to the start of Mass.”

Canon Law allows for only one intention per Mass, although that intention can be for a family or a particular group. However, the Vatican has issued a ruling allowing for the priest to accept more than one intention per Mass, Father Pelzel pointed out.

“The people who make the offerings must be made aware at the time of their offer that their Mass intentions will be collectively remembered, and they must be made aware of the time, date and place of the Mass,” he said. “Collective intentions are not permitted more frequently than twice a week per parish.”

Even though the normal amount offered with a request for a Mass intention will rise from $5 to $10 on July 1, all Mass intentions accepted prior to then will be honored at the accepted amount. In light of Ministry 2025, pastoral planning for the diocese, Mass intentions that have been accepted before a merger or suppression of a parish which cannot be met by a priest of the new and/or assuming parish, will be sent to the Office of Worship for distribution.

Communion services

Imagine, if you will, this scenario: The priest makes his way to the church for Mass. On the way he falls, which incapacitates him, or on the way, he becomes seriously ill. There is not enough time to find another priest to celebrate Mass.

The policy which oversees weekday and Sunday Communion services addresses these situations.

“Canon law stipulates a Communion service only occurs by way of exception, so it is rare,” Father Pelzel said. “With that in mind, the members of the Presbyteral Council thought it prudent to encourage pastors to have a procedure in place so the faithful could receive the Eucharist under extenuating circumstances.”

In cases where a last-minute emergency arises, the policy states that “the bishop or vicar general is to be notified immediately.”

“If the faithful are gathering, or already gathered, the bishop may grant permission for the celebration of a Communion service,” Father Pelzel said. “If permission is granted, another suitable person – for example a deacon or eucharistic minister – may conduct the service.”

It will be the responsibility of the pastor that training in the Sunday Celebration in Absence of a Priest has taken place. The pastor must also ensure there are an adequate number of consecrated hosts on hand for distribution.

Bread, wine particulars

On June 15, 2017, at the request of Pope Francis, the Congregation for the Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued a circular letter regarding the bread and wine used for the Holy Eucharist.

The letter states, “The most holy Sacrifice of the Eucharist must be offered in bread, and in wine, to which a small quantity of water is to be added… The bread must be wheaten only.”

Low-gluten hosts are valid matter for the Mass; gluten-free hosts are not.

“It is the responsibility of the pastor to approve the use of low-gluten hosts for those who need them, and he should keep a supply in the sacristy,” Father Pelzel said.

According to Canon Law, the wine must be natural, made from grapes of the vine and be purchased only from an approved supplier that has obtained “ecclesial approbation.”

Mustum, or 100 percent non-alcoholic grape juice, is considered valid matter, but it also must be purchased from an ecclesiastical supplier, Father Pelzel pointed out.

“The permission to use mustum must be given in writing by the bishop,” he said. “It is to be used only for the priest celebrant unless there are special circumstances, which also need approval in writing.”

Special circumstances

According to Father Pelzel, there are now policies and procedures in place for priests in “special circumstances.”

“It addresses the question, ‘What do we do if Father X cannot, or will not, exercise his priestly ministry and/or a given assignment?’,” he said. “It applies to any priest who is unable or unwilling to carry out an assignment – with or without fault – temporarily or permanently. Additionally, it speaks to the support such priests will receive and the obligations that they will take on in such circumstances.”

Special circumstances may include: short-term medical leave, permanent disability, administrative leave, noncertification under Safe Environment protocols and/or refusal of an assignment.

“The policy now outlines salary, specific benefits, housing and time frames in each of these cases,” Father Pelzel said. “Canon law stipulates a priest should undertake and fulfill faithfully any function which the bishop entrusts to them in obedience. However, in charity, we must be willing to examine each situation on an individual basis and this new policy will guide the bishop, and perhaps the Presbyteral Council, if necessary.”

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