Safety is a priority as churches reopen

Record Photo by Marnie McAllister
Communicants had their hands sprayed with a sanitizer before receiving the Eucharist at Holy Family Church May 22. The sacrament was administered after the dismissal, one way the church is trying to limit the possibility of spreading the coronavirus. As parishes reopen, each is finding its own way to safeguard the public.

By MARNIE McALLISTER and Record Staff Reports

In one of the Archdiocese of Louisville’s first public Masses since the suspension of public worship in mid-March due to COVID-19, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz thanked worshipers for taking care of one another and protecting the common good by wearing masks and social distancing.

He celebrated an 8 a.m. Mass May 22 with about two dozen worshipers who were spread widely in the pews of Holy Family Church.

Parishes in the Archdiocese of Louisville were permitted to reopen for public worship May 20, with limited capacity and certain restrictions, which Archbishop Kurtz announced May 11. Parishioners are expected to wear masks, exchange a touchless sign of peace and keep their distance in pews. He also announced that those who are vulnerable or who feel vulnerable are dispensed from the Sunday obligation.

Each parish has planned to reopen in its own way, so restrictions and adjustments may look a bit different at each parish. Safety is at the center of all the plans.

At Holy Family Church with Archbishop Kurtz, Mass was largely the same as always, but Communion was distributed after the dismissal. Before communicants approached the deacon for the Eucharist, a volunteer sprayed their hands with sanitizer.

At St. Bernard Church on Sunday, May 24, Shirley Goins received Communion for the first time since mid-March in a drive-through line from her pastor Father Charles D. Walker.

“I’m 83 years old and have heart trouble. I can’t get out. I love this idea,” she said.

Record Photo by Jessica Able
Father Chuck Walker, pastor of St. Bernard Church, distributes holy Communion to Paul Huelsman car-side May 24. Parishioners who watched the live-streamed Mass were invited to drive over to church and receive the Eucharist afterwards.

Father Walker celebrated two in-person Masses May 23 and 24 in the spacious school gym, but also continued his 8:30 a.m. live-streamed Mass.

Afterward, parishioners who had watched at home were invited to drive over to church and receive Communion in the drive-through line.

It was a way to offer the holy Eucharist to those who didn’t feel comfortable returning to Mass just yet, said Father Walker.

Mike Johnson said he thought the drive-through process was “great.” He said he wasn’t too keen to wear a mask, which is required, so he and his wife, Debbie, will continue watching the livestream Mass and come to the parish for Communion afterward.

“I got my computer hooked up to my TV and we watch Mass every Sunday,” Johnson said.

St. Thomas More Church’s Sunday Mass was more traditional.

Carol Reinstedler, her husband John and their elderly friend Jim Royalty attended Mass together.

Photo Special to The Record
Carol Reinstedler handed cloth masks to Odette Ntakipuzimana before Mass at St. Thomas More Church, 6105 South Third St., May 24 as he husband John looked on. During the quarantine Reinstedler has made hundreds of masks. St. Thomas More, like churches across the Archdiocese of Louisville, re-opened for the celebration of Mass the weekend of May 23-24.

“I’m pretty comfortable returning to Mass as long as everyone keeps their distance,” said Carol Reinstedler. “We’re doing good (at home) but I think we need to get back to church.”

She’s 67 years old and her daughter has been worried about them, she said. She’s stayed busy during the quarantine by making hundreds of cloth masks for the Kentucky Air National Guard, St. John Center for Homeless Men and for parishioners in anticipation of the church reopening.

Father Brian Kenney, pastor, said he was pleased by the way parishioners responded to the safety expectations in place on the first Sunday back.

“It’s like going down the first big hill on a roller coaster and you’re taking in everything, but you know that with the speed things are going, you’ll have to learn from experience,” he said. “I suspected that most would already be conditioned to the idea of maintaining distance so I wasn’t concerned with having to direct people. People have lived up to the expectations.”

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