COVID-19 Safety Practices at St. Thomas Aquinas

All of us at St. Thomas Aquinas are committed to making the Sacraments of the Church available as widely as possible while keeping everyone who enters our doors healthy.  If you are trying to decide whether it is safe for you to return to Mass, here is a list of what we are doing to protect our members, volunteers, visitors, staff, and clergy.

  1. Although we are permitted to host groups up to 50% of our capacity, in practice we cannot accommodate that many and maintain social distancing. Our actual limit is about 150 people per Mass in the church. The exact number depends on whether there are a lot of families who can sit close to others within the family or individuals who must be fully spaced out. Because of this, RSVPs for weekend Masses are strongly encouraged.  To RSVP for a particular Mass, please email Terri Kopplin at terri@stamadison.org and give her your name, the Mass you want to attend, and the number of people in your group.  If we see that a particular Mass may hit capacity, we may also be able to open some additional seating in the chapel or social hall. Until our audio-visual system is fully functional, doing this takes time and effort. Notifying Terri of your plans to attend Mass helps us prepare for the right number of people and helps us accommodate as many people as possible who come to Mass without an RSVP.
  2. We check people in from our list of RSVPs as they arrive for Mass, and have marked spaced out locations to stand while checking in on the floor to maintain distance between different households.
  3. Staff and volunteers wear face masks, and we ask that everyone entering the building do so as required by Public Health Madison & Dane County. We have a small supply of face masks here in case a visitor does not have one.
  4. Hand sanitizer is available at the entrance to the church and visitors are encouraged to use it when they arrive and leave.
  5. Every other pew is blocked off and people are asked to sit 6 feet apart in the pews that are open. The ministers of hospitality provide directions in order to maintain a safe distance between people from different households.
  6. Doors are propped open so you do not have to touch them to enter or leave.
  7. There is no congregational singing and no choir.  Our Director of Music Ministries, Greg Buchberger, and one or two cantors, who are well separated from everyone else, provide music.  Mass responses are spoken aloud by worshipers.
  8. No missalettes are in the pews or used at Mass.
  9. Baskets are not passed at the offertory. There are stationary baskets where worshipers can drop off their offerings.
  10. We do not shake hands at the Peace. We suggest a wave instead.
  11. Communion is only offered as the Precious Body; Fr. Bart and the extraordinary ministers wear face masks; we encourage everyone to receive on the hand, and Fr. Bart and the ministers come to communicants at their seats to minimize the number of people each individual is exposed to.  Volunteers dispense hand sanitizer to everyone before the Precious Body is brought to them.
  12. Our Ministers of Hospitality provide directions on how to leave church to avoid crowds around the doors and in the Gathering Area. We ask that visitors not stop to chat inside or close to the building when leaving Mass.
  13. We have implemented a stepped-up schedule of cleaning between Masses. Volunteers help wipe down the pews after each Mass. If you want to assist with this vital task, please contact Holly Irving at holly@stamadison.org.
  14. We have also installed an iWave system throughout our heating and air conditioning systems to inactivate bacteria, mold spores, pollen and other allergens, and viruses in the air in our building.