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The communal chalice in St. Louis’ Catholic Masses comes back after two years

Rev. Charles Samson consecrates the body and blood of Christ
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
The Rev. Charles Samson officiates during the consecration on Thursday at a noon Mass at the Old Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, King of France in downtown St. Louis.

After a two-year suspension, pastors throughout the Archdiocese of St. Louis have the option to bring back the communal chalice starting this Sunday, according to a memo sent to all pastors on June 1.

Each parish within the archdiocese can decide whether or not to reinstate the chalice, which was suspended in March 2020 to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Some parishes, like the Immaculate Conception Parish of Dardenne, are planning to bring back the communal cup but need more time to execute it, Monsignor Ted Wojcicki said.

“Phasing into COVID was very difficult,” Wojcicki said. “Phasing out of [COVID] takes just as much time and energy.”

The Rev. Nicholas Smith, pastor at the Basilica of St. Louis, King of France, sent out the memo. It’s up to every individual, he said, to decide if they want to receive wine from the chalice.

To officially receive the Eucharist, a member of the church doesn’t have to consume both the bread and the wine, Smith said.

Smith cleared up any confusion with this analogy:

If someone got a birthday cake on their birthday, that would be great. (That’s the bread.) If they had candles to light on the top, the party would be even better. (That’s the wine.)

For Catholics with a gluten intolerance, the wine is a safe alternative if the church is out of or unable to offer low-gluten hosts.

That’s the case for Nicole Rogers of South Dakota, who has celiac disease and can’t have gluten. She was visiting St. Louis with her husband, Jacob, this week.

If parishes they visit don’t have a low-gluten host or a chalice, Nicole isn’t able to receive communion. With the possibility of a reinstated chalice, that wouldn’t be the case anymore.

“It's a really good fallback, he said. “Rather than receiving nothing, she receives the blood.”

When making a decision on whether or not to bring back a communal chalice, many parishes have to decide whether it’s safe. The COVID transmission rate for St. Louis and St. Louis County is rated as high by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Many pastors throughout the archdiocese have sent out surveys and spoken with members of the congregation about how they feel, Smith said.

And COVID isn’t the only thing parishes have to consider. Many parishes don’t have enough volunteers to pass out communion, said Monsignor Henry Breier of the New Cathedral in St. Louis.

With many volunteers on vacation and traveling during the summer, Breier said it’s hard enough to find enough people to help distribute the bread. That leaves the reinstatement of the communal cup out of reach for this Sunday.

“It’s really a situation of manpower,” Breier said.

Farrah Anderson is the newsroom intern at St. Louis Public Radio. Follow her on Twitter: @farrahsoa

Farrah Anderson is an intern at Illinois Public Media and a junior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she is studying journalism. She previously interned for St. Louis Public Radio in the summer of 2022.