A WORD FROM THE PASTOR
Are We Getting Settled To A New Normal Life?
We have passed five months since Covid-19 began to affect our normal lives. As you know, it has changed everyone’s life, affecting quality and quantity of life. As of now, for religious worship, the state government allows 50% of the seating capacity. Our church has a seating capacity of 450 people to be seated comfortably. Before Covid-19, the total number of people attending weekend Masses were some 270 to 300. Now it has come down to 130 to 150 people consistently over the past three months; it doesn’t seem to be going up.
The US Bishops suspended the Sunday Obligation during this pandemic in order to control the virus from spreading. It has become very convenient for many not to return to church. Several people who were habituated in attending the Sunday Mass, have gotten into other habits. The bottom line is that it is not (right now) an obligation. Psychologically it is said that habits are broken over a continuous 21 days; after that time you no longer feel the need to continue the behavior; you lose the motivation and it does not drive you. It is no more a part of your life and you reach a stage that you don’t need it any more!
At the same time, after reopening of the church, some are regularly attending the Mass. I had an informal chat with some who attend the church and they said: “Watching the Mass on the TV or internet is not the same as when you are in the church. You cannot receive communion; when I was not receiving it, there was an emptiness, a vacuum in my heart; a madness is drawing me to the church; not participating in the Holy Week services was an agony. I want to show my love to Jesus; though I can stay at home, I am doing it out of love.” The majority of our Mass attendees are above 60 years old. It reveals how they have nurtured their faith.
While these situations are perceivable in our church and elsewhere also, I would like to share a few of my concerns, as the church is my life. We continue to be in the church with masks, following social distancing and no interaction with others after the Mass. There are no altar servers except for the 10:30 a.m. Mass; some Eucharistic ministers, lectors and some adorers to the chapel are not keeping up their schedules. My fear and worry is that it has become a new normal life. How long can we cope with this situation? Is there any way to get back those who are not in the church, especially the young ones? Should we wait to return to the church till we get an order from the Bishop that attending Sunday Mass is an obligation?
I wish that all those who are faithful to the church speak to someone – possibly your family members or neighbors or friends and share with them about what drives you to the church. We hear that a vaccine may be available in January 2021, but we are alarmed that certain measures to protect from the virus will need to be continued. How will the church be in the next decade? I invite you all to think about it and do something to better the situation. That is true Christian vocation!