What’s Old is New Again
A year ago at Pentecost, I was frustrated to learn that our hopes to open up Catholic churches again seemed to be facing further delays. There was hope of opening after being closed much of Lent and Easter, but at the last minute it seemed that this would be delayed longer into summer and the best we could do would be outdoor liturgies.
Emailing the archbishop my frustrations, to my surprise I received a response within an hour that simply said “stay tuned.” The archdiocese along with the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church took legal steps to ensure our churches could be opened. Nothing went to court and a compromise was reached with the governor, and we were able to open up.
But, as we all know, it’s been, shall we say, less than ideal. We’ve worn masks and haven’t seen one another’s faces all that much inside. There’s no congregational singing. We are distanced from our fellow parishioners. There’s no post-Mass activities like coffee and doughnuts. We’ve had to try to do the best we can to keep in mind health safety while wanting to come together and worship as a community.
Thankfully now a year later, we are beginning to see more signs of a return to normalcy. With the CDC changing guidelines, most states are now rolling back mask mandates including Minnesota’s governor. These changes along with a relaxing of executive orders from the governor, mean changes are coming again as we see a gradual return to more familiar liturgy.
So what will this look like in coming weeks?
For one, as was noted last week at Mass, as there is no state mask mandate nor a mandate from the city of Rosemount or Dakota County, face masks at Masses are now optional. I do appreciate this past year people being very tolerant on this issue which has been somewhat polarizing; I do know some people came to me saying they had breathing problems, and I assured them we wouldn’t be hassling anyone. At the same time people have been conscientious about one another’s health too in using the face coverings. Now as there is no mandate, do what you feel is in the best interest of your health. On the first weekend without the mandate, I saw a lot more faces than I had seen in quite some time, and I’m sure many of us felt the same way in that it was great to see faces again. In particular from the altar where you can see everyone, I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to see faces as we gather together as a community.
Also coming to an end are social distancing requirements effective May 28th. We’ve had ropes on the pews since last May for this, and initially we were at 25% capacity, then as the Covid situation improved a bit, 50%, and now all distancing requirements are gone so you’ll see the ropes removed.
Funeral lunches, which have also been suspended, we hope to get going soon. This has been really hard as we have a very dedicated group of people who help facilitate lunches for families, and after a funeral it means so much for the family to gather for a meal. Meals are important events; notice Jesus so often is dining in someone’s home in the Gospels. It’s about much more than food but a coming together, and the funeral lunch is a time for a family to come together.
Congregational singing will also be making a comeback as hymnals will be put back into the pews on May 28th. Over the summer, we’ll continue to have an accompanist and cantor and eventually a few singers together. Typically choirs aren’t as active over summer, so our hopes are to have choirs by the fall.
With respect to Communion, the past couple of weeks we’ve returned to more normalcy with lines going front to back and this will continue. We hope to find more people willing to volunteer to serve as a Eucharistic Minister; if you would be willing to consider, please contact Bill Bradley (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call our parish office and Ann our secretary can transfer you to Bill. Ideally we’ll have enough ministers at Masses for two lines in the center and on each side. At this time the Archdiocese has asked us to still hold off on returning the chalice.
Confession has also returned to the normal confessional, a much more warm environment with a window and the option of a kneeler or face-to-face.
The Sign of Peace will also be returning July 1st, as will the traditional collection; the past year we’ve had baskets out in front and added a drop box for collections too for people. Thank you so much for your generosity to keep our parish going during this challenging time. Of course if you are uncomfortable making the sign of peace, don’t feel forced to shake hands too.
Lastly on the baptismal font, I’ve been hoping for water to return soon. We still haven’t gotten clarity on when it can be filled but we will soon.
Over the past year we’ve also had a dedicated team come together to make use of our camera system and audio-visual equipment to live-stream Masses. This ministry has expanded for funerals and weddings and some other parish events too. A big “thank you” to our video crew. We’ll continue to be doing this, and also are hopeful to upgrade our camera system in coming months as well.
For the time being, the Archbishop is maintaining the dispensation from assisting at Sunday Mass. This will be eventually restored; but of course as I always tell people in confession, if they are ill, immobile, or weather is too dangerous to travel, these are all factors that would negate the obligation for them individually. I really believe most people don’t come to Mass out of obligation though but rather because they want to be there.
I am also excited to see a return to many other parish ministries in coming months. from doughnut Sundays with coffee and juice so people can socialize, to meals at parish events, to our Harvest Festival this fall.
Covid certainly has not gone away, but I think we are all breathing just a little bit easier as we see more hope. As I shared in my homily when I got my shot, there was a banner up that read “A shot of hope” and hats off to the hard work of scientists, researchers, doctors and nurses who have helped fight this pandemic.
Let us also never forget what a blessing it is to celebrate the sacraments together too. The apostles dealt with persecution and most of them died martyrs and through the centuries Christians have suffered greatly. But what meant so much to them was truly gathering as a community around the Lord’s table to be with one another and celebrate the Eucharist. Hopefully this pandemic has reminded us of the importance of community and being with one another at the altar of the Lord.
During the pandemic I’ve seen the Holy Spirit at work in so many who’ve worked hard to keep our parish going, and in the people who’ve had a deep hunger for being at Mass. Hopefully in coming weeks and months we get back to the many aspects of Mass that make it even more prayerful and vibrant and the activities that bring such life to our parish, but no matter what as we’ve learned through this difficult time, Jesus is with us always – may we never stop trusting in His love, His presence, and His mercy.
God bless and have a great week, ~Fr. Paul
Download a PDF copy of this post here