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Terry Ackermann prayed at Mass at St. Francis of Assisi Church on May 18. It was the first public Mass celebrated at St. Francis of Assisi Parish since suspension of public Masses to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Terry Ackermann prayed at Mass at St. Francis of Assisi Church on May 18. It was the first public Mass celebrated at St. Francis of Assisi Parish since suspension of public Masses to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston

Clockwork-like procedures in place as parish returns to public Masses

Priest welcomes back congregants to public Masses

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.

Richard Duerst prayed at Mass at St. Francis of Assisi Church on May 18. According to the guidelines to resume celebration of public Masses in the archdiocese, all parishioners are to wear masks during Mass.
Photo Credits: Lisa Johnston
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 each pew.

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.

Signs on the pews at St. Francis of Assisi Church directed parishioners to remain in the pews during Communion. Other signs directed Massgoers to keep appropriate distance from others and designated entrance and exit doors.
Photo Credits: Lisa Johnston

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.

He 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.”

Fulhorst 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.

Father Anthony 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.
Father Anthony Yates helped to disinffect the pews after celebrating the first public Mass since the COVID-19 shut down at St. Francis of Assisi Parish church on Monday, May 18.
Photo Credits: Lisa Johnston

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Clockworklike procedures in place as parish returns to public Masses 5320

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