The same creative ministry that emerged when churches had to suspend traditional worship in mid-March is continuing in the archdiocese of Louisville’s 110 parishes as they’ve begun to reopen for worship. Each is taking its own path to return to ministry in a safe way.
Some are embracing new worship spaces with outdoor Masses and liturgies in school gyms that can accommodate more people while social distancing. Others are providing drive-through Communion. Still others are taking a slower approach and delaying the return to public worship.
Wherever and whenever Catholics end up returning to Mass eventually, each will look slightly different.
At Holy Family Church during Friday morning Mass with Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz May 22, Mass was absolutely the same as it ever was in all of its essentials.
Among the things that don’t really matter, though, were various little differences. It went something like this, from one perspective:
Step 1. In the car, I placed and adjusted a mask on my face. My glasses fogged up.
Step 2. On my way in the door, a volunteer took my temperature with a touchless thermometer.
It might have been awkward, but she smiled and said good morning. As she aimed the device at my forehead, she shrugged the kind of shrug that said everything we were both thinking about what a strange time we were living in and isn’t it wonderful that we can be cooperative for the sake of one another’s wellbeing.
Step 3. Inside the doorway, I adjusted my mask and my glasses fogged up.
Step 4. I used the hand sanitizer station available just past the doorway, partly because I had just touched my mask and partly because that’s what you do when you walk into church now.
Step 5. I began to pray in preparation for Mass and wondered if I should have touched the pew in front of me.
Step 6. Then, as always, I participated in Mass and tried not to touch my mask or other parts of my face. If you’re like me, think about bringing hand sanitizer with you.
Step 7. At some point, probably as I spoke the words, “Lamb of God,” my glasses fogged up, again.
Step 8. Communion was distributed after the final blessing. As we approached the deacon for the Eucharist wearing our masks and standing more than six feet apart, a volunteer sprayed our hands with sanitizer. Then Deacon Pat Wright deposited the Eucharist in our palms in the usual way.
Step 9. Cradling the host in my left hand and wearing my mask I stepped away from the deacon and wondered for an awkward moment how to handle the mask situation. I picked up the host as usual using the fingers on my right hand and pulled the mask off momentarily with my left hand, facing away from anyone I could see nearby. Then I replaced my mask and departed.
Step 10. Outside in my car I found time for reflection and sweet relief from my mask. I sanitized my hands, took a deep breath and cleaned my glasses.
It was exhausting, but it was good to receive the Eucharist and to pray with a congregation I could see and hear nearby.
Each church is doing things differently; this is how Holy Family’s Friday morning Mass with Archbishop Kurtz went.
Returning to Mass isn’t for everyone right now. In fact, it’s not feasible for everyone to go every week with our churches operating at a limited capacity.
And there’s no rush. Archbishop Kurtz issued a dispensation May 11 for those who are vulnerable to COVID-19 and for those who feel vulnerable amid the pandemic. During his homily at Holy Family, he thanked the congregation for wearing masks and for keeping their distance from one another. The church’s priority is protecting human life. And that should be the priority for all of us.
We wear our masks and keep our distance because we love one another.