3.1 Sunday Mass Schedules

To help stay in conformity with Parameters 4, 5, and 6, it is important for the liturgical leaders in your Family of Parishes to regularly analyze the Sunday Mass schedule(s) and consider changes.

Eucharist Reversed

Parameter 4: The regular Mass schedule for a Family of Parishes may not assume more than two Masses per day per priest.

What This Means: The number of Masses scheduled in a Family must take into account the availability of the pastor and parochial vicars to celebrate them.

Why This Matters: It is important to be realistic about the availability of priests (both now and in the future), to observe canon law and to not rely on the availability of retired priests to sustain a regular Mass schedule for the Family.

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Parameter 5: A regularly scheduled Mass for the Sunday precept must have annual average attendance of at least 50 percent of the church capacity. 

What This Means: If any one of the Masses celebrated in the Family on Saturday evening or Sunday morning is regularly less than half full, the Mass schedule should be reduced until all Masses regularly fill half the church building.

Why This Matters: This is another way of not only ensuring a sustainable Mass schedule but also a better quality of celebration and sense of community.

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Parameter 6: The regular Mass schedule must provide the opportunity for priests to spiritually prepare for and be present to the community after Mass.

What This Means: In creating a schedule of Masses for the Family of Parishes, consideration must be given to the driving distance and time between church buildings and other schedule demands on the priests’ time.

Why This Matters: Before Mass, priests need time to prepare not only materially (put on vestments, look over texts, etc.) but also spiritually, rather than rushing in at the last minute. In the same way, priests should have time after Mass concludes to greet worshipers and to be present to the faithful without having to immediately rush to the next place.

There are resources and strategic suggestions, originally provided in early 2022, available for you to use even now.

In winter 2024, the Office for Divine Worship and Sacraments (ODWS) will provide more guidance to invite and encourage each Family to consider its Sunday Mass schedule in light of the October 2023 counts and priest staffing, among other factors.

While we want to be prepared for growth (rather than just managing decline) and thus do not want our facility usage to be too high, many churches are still only filling 30 percent or lower of the seating capacity at a regular Sunday Mass.