Greeted and guided outside by Bill Fulhorst, the parish director of
operations and finance, the 50-or-so people attending the first public
Mass at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Oakville since mid-March found
it easy to maintain social distancing.
Signs such as “please
maintain distance on floor,” markings such as “this pew to remain empty”
and indicators of where to wait were prominent inside and outside the
church on Monday, May 18. After a short stay outside, the go-ahead was
given and the celebrant of the Mass, Father George Staley guided them to
their pew. Unless occupied by a family group, three people occupied
Archbishop Robert J. Carlson suspended public Masses in
the archdiocese March 16 as a way of slowing the spread of COVID-19.
Since then, the priests at St. Francis have been livestreaming Masses
daily. After extensive consultation and providing guidelines, Archbishop
Carlson allowed public Masses to resume starting May 18 at the
discretion of each parish pastor. The archbishop’s general dispensation
from the Sunday Mass obligation remains in place for all Catholics in
the archdiocese until further notice and parishes are encouraged to
continue livestreaming Masses.
Father Staley, associate pastor of
St. Francis of Assisi, told the congregation that “it’s so good to see
you back here. Welcome back.”
It’s still a little different, but better than having no one in the pews and talking to a camera, he said.
gave a short homily focused on a passage in the readings that “the Lord
takes delight in the people.” That statement gives people strength to
withstand fear and anxiety, he said. “Let us allow the Lord to take
delight in us.”
Nancy Robinson said “it was awesome to be back in community with people and receiving the Eucharist.”
Therese Kaag said spiritual communion and having livestreamed Masses are “fantastic but it doesn’t compare to coming to church.”
said he and Tammy Chumley, director of evangelization at St. Francis,
will greet and guide people every day. His only regrets that they can’t
see his smile because of the face mask he wears.
Yates, parish pastor, said the marking and signage are important to help
people feel comfortable and provide good directions. “The staff pitched
in and pulled together. It went smoothly,” Father Yates said.