It was so good to finally re-open our parish for weekend and daily Mass. I am grateful to everyone for their patience and understanding as we continue to utilize the gym for all Masses until further notice. I am happy that we can provide Mass for as many members of our parish and mission as possible. Our parish leadership team worked for several weeks to determine the best possible approach and I am grateful to them – as we all should be — for their efforts. There are many behind the scenes who make the joyous celebration of the Eucharist possible.
The decision to have additional Masses in St. Paul’s gymnasium and not to have Masses in the church or at St. Peter’s mission was difficult. At St. Paul’s, over 3200 people normally attend weekend Mass. The church only seats about 650, so six Masses are required. St. Peter’s has about 450 regular attendees. The decision was made to find the largest possible space that could safely accommodate the largest number of parishioners, and to provide as many opportunities to attend Mass as possible.
We decided to have four Vigil Masses and six Sunday Masses in the gym which can comfortably accommodate about 225 with required social distancing. These ten Masses provide for 2/3 of our usual total weekend Mass attendance from the parish and the mission. Using the church and the mission would safely seat only about 100 people and require a thorough sanitizing after each Mass. This would greatly reduce the opportunities for Mass.
Along with space, another consideration is the number of available priests. Unlike other peak times in the past — Christmas Eve, Ash Wednesday, and Easter Sunday, we cannot ask our retired priests to assist. Father Valan, Father Joseph and I have accepted the responsibility to do the best we can for the entire parish, which includes the mission.
Though our first week had small numbers in attendance, it was so gratifying to see some young adults who came on their own, some seniors who made the struggle carrying a chair, and some families who came with a blanket and worshipped together. There was room for everyone who chose to gather around the altar of God’s Beloved Son, with room for many more.
A report on Mass attendance last weekend is included elsewhere in this bulletin and on the website to help you plan when the best time for you to attend Mass might be. We anticipate that these schedules will continue through at least the end of June, although I suspect that our interim measures will be our “normal” for quite some time. We will keep you informed of any changes in our bulletin and on our website. Keep your face covering and your chair or blanket handy!
You and your intentions are remembered daily.
With best regards, I am
Sincerely yours in the Lord,
Fr. Michael Houle