By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
As parishes begin opening their doors for individual prayer this week, Father Bernie Weir said the fact that the church is open could help bring comfort and peace to people.
The pastor of St. James Parish in Washington planned to open the church May 27 for prayer from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily. “We will only have one door open. Everyone must use that door. We will of course have hand sanitizer at the door for people to use. We will have wipes at the door. We are asking that people bring their own if they can as these are in short supply,” he said. “We will have 10 spots marked for people to use. That way we know where people were sitting. We ask them to wipe their spot down before they leave, if possible.
We will clean the church in the middle of the day and again at the end of the day.” He planned to have his staff trained to help with the cleaning.
Preliminary work has already begun to prepare for the second step of the diocesan plan to open for public Masses, with restrictions. Prior to last week’s announcement, “We sent out a survey to parish members asking if they would be comfortable returning to Mass. If they are, what are their Mass preferences? Tuesday through Friday at 8 a.m. or the weekend Masses on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. or Sunday at 9 and 11:30 a.m. We also asked how many people in their family would be attending.”
At that point, seats will be assigned, with a limit of 30 people. “We will print a list and assign seats. If you are not on the list, you cannot attend that Mass. We want to know who was in the church and where they were sitting just in case we have to do contact tracing.” Livestreaming and posting of those Masses will continue on Facebook until all restrictions are lifted.
Father Jim Vrba, pastor of St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf, said he planned to open the church May 28 for private prayer. Hours will be 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to noon on Fridays.
At this point, the parish has some cleaning supplies. While celebrating Mass online May 24, Father Vrba said he asked parishioners to keep an eye out for sanitizing wipes. The parish would appreciate parishioners’ efforts to find and purchase wipes to bring to the office, if possible. Office staff and others will clean the church.
“The real challenge is figuring out how to invite people to Mass during Step Two using some kind of a reservation system,” Father Vrba said. “We have ordered disposable face masks for those who do not have their own cloth ones, as well as face shields for the clergy and eucharistic ministers. We will need to practice about how to seat people and direct people on how to receive holy Communion. Another challenge will be how to arrange for over 80 children to receive their first holy Communion — and initiate our RCIA candidates and catechumen.”