COVID-19 Worship Protocols
The University of the Incarnate Word is a diverse population made up of students, faculty, staff and Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word. We are uniquely situated next door to the Village at Incarnate Word, a retirement center and home to some of our Incarnate Word family. Many of our liturgies at the University serve not only the campus community but also our local community. As such, our UIW Medical Team has closely monitored the status of the COVID-19 pandemic locally and elsewhere and its potential to place the Incarnate Word community at risk or disrupt its activities.
As UIW enters a new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UIW Medical Team has endorsed changes to our university policies which we have incorporated into our worship protocols.
As of Sunday, April 3, 2022, the following guidelines have been updated for Our Lady’s Chapel.
- Masks. The wearing of masks will follow the current UIW Mask Policy. The wearing of masks in UIW facilities, including Our Lady’s Chapel, will be optional, except for medical settings and as required by NCAA rules. Masks are still encouraged indoors for unvaccinated persons and those with other health risks. A helpful tool is the CDC/s Know Your COVID-19 Community Level webpage.
- Registration. We will suspend registrations for in-person Masses and prayer services until further notice. Should it be necessary to re-instate this procedure, we will communicate with the Incarnate Word community through internal communication, our webpage, and on our Flocknote network. Registration for Livestream services will continue.
- Contact tracing will discontinue as a university function. In the case of a positive diagnosis by an attendee of our worshiping community (who may have been in contact with the larger worshiping community), we encourage reporting to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your confidentiality will be respected.
- Liturgical Processions.
- 1) Offertory Procession. The procession of gifts to the altar will be re-instated.
- 3) Communion Procession. The procession for communion will continue to utilize the center row. Please use the side aisles on either side of the chapel to return to your seats.
- Liturgical Ministries: The following ministries will be reinstated in the manner applicable to that ministry. The mask policy for ministers will be as above.
- Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion (EMOH). The EMOH will be reinstated during communion.
- Choir. Members will participate in the choir area facing but removed from the assembly.
- Physical distancing protocols for seating, as well as during the procession to receive communion, are still encouraged. Therefore, individuals and group attendees independent of other families, dorms, or workgroups, are asked to self-distance themselves in accordance with current CDC guidelines for Institutions of Higher Learning, staying at least 6 feet distance from those who do not live in the same household (see the CDC's Guidance for Institutions of Higher Education). We ask that seating begins in the second row from the front.
- Water fountains on campus will be reopened for use.
- Capacity. Allowing space for physical distancing and family/dorm groups, the seating capacity for Our Lady’s Chapel will accommodate approximately 150-175 individuals.
The following guidelines and procedures will remain in effect:
- Sign of Peace. During the Sign of Peace, please continue to greet each other with a simple gesture as has been customary throughout the last year.
- In-person and live-stream via Zoom. Mass will be offered in a hybrid setting (i.e., in-person with live streaming for those who wish to attend virtually).
- Thermal Scanner. The thermal scanner near Our Lady’s Chapel will continue to be available for those who wish to use it prior to entering the worship space. We ask that all in-person attendees monitor their conditions carefully before coming to public worship at UIW. If ill, please stay home.
- Vaccinations. We will not require proof of vaccination for COVID-19.
- Printed materials. An electronic worship aid/bulletin will continue to be provided for the remainder of the semester in lieu of printed materials. We invite you to use your phone, iPad, or tablet to access this document, which will be available via Flocknote, university email, or by QR code at the entrance to the chapel. We will re-evaluate the use of printed materials for the fall semester.
- Holy Communion. The Eucharist will continue to be offered under one species. At this time, communion will not be offered on the tongue.
- Holy Water. Fonts will remain empty until further notice.
- Participation. We encourage your participation in the liturgy by engaging in spoken responses, the various postures of the Mass, and singing as you feel comfortable. We will continue to monitor safety guidelines and professional studies regarding all aspects of worship, especially singing and the use of wind instruments, as well as their safe inclusion in our prayer with the use of specially designed masks and equipment.
- Cleaning/Air Quality. A thorough deep cleaning of Our Lady’s Chapel was performed at the end of July 2021 and will be conducted again in 2022. The filters currently in use in the chapel are considered hospital-level air quality and the fresh air makeup in this space has also been increased. The chapel will continue to be sanitized after celebrations. Hand sanitizer will continue to be available in various areas in and outside the chapel.
- Retreats and other events. University retreats and other events will be held in person at the discretion of UMM leadership and current university guidelines.
- Employee/Student Testing and Protocols. COVID-19 employee testing will continue under the UIW Employee Vaccine Policy. Weekly testing is strongly encouraged for unvaccinated students. Employees and students who test positive are still required to complete an Illness Reporting Form. This report allows UIW to make important planning decisions for our community. Scaled surveillance testing may be occasionally invoked for employees and students.
- Communication. As we have all come to learn, a pandemic is a fluid situation. Should circumstances change, we will inform our worshiping community via our Flocknote app, internal university communications, and social media. We cannot stress enough the importance of registering with our University of the Incarnate Word network if you consider UIW your worshiping community. It is the best means we have of keeping connected with you and sharing information quickly if need be. Registration is free and can be done at UIW Flocknote.
The local, regional, and state-wide progression of COVID-19 will continue to be monitored daily by the university. Because the dignity, health, and well-being of our internationally and generationally diverse community are of utmost concern to the university, decisions regarding university operations, including our campus worship, continue to be made in consultation with medical professionals and with guidance from the CDC and the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District. As a Catholic institution within the Archdiocese of San Antonio, we will continue to follow guidelines issued by the Archdiocese with modifications that best support our diverse worshiping community and circumstances as a campus.
These changes will remain in effect until rescinded and are subject to review as circumstances demand.
Sr. Walter Maher, VP for Mission & Ministry and
University Mission and Ministry Staff,
University of the Incarnate Word