Last Sunday, for the first time since religious gatherings were suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, Sunday Masses were offered in churches of the northern counties of the archdiocese.
True, masks and social distancing were required and attendance was limited to 25 percent of capacity, but the resumption of Sunday Mass was an important and welcome sign that the return to normalcy we’ve all been craving was finally at hand.
Baptisms, weddings and funerals also may be held again, under guidelines set by state health officials for the safe resumption of group functions.
Sunday’s Masses resumed on the day observed by the Church as the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, a day that celebrates the Eucharist and is known to many Catholics as the feast of Corpus Christi.
That’s especially fitting, given that so many of the faithful reported that reception of the Eucharist was what they most longed for during their months staying home.
In the coming weeks public Masses will return to our New York City parishes, with the same restrictions in place, and we’re hopeful all will go as smoothly as it did up north.
Still, with COVID-19 cases continuing to rise in other states (but not New York) and with protests ongoing after George Floyd’s death in a racially charged police encounter, there are hurdles on the road back to normal for the Church and society.
As a society, we need to remain focused on finding a treatment or vaccine against COVID-19, and effecting meaningful change in racial relations and law enforcement practice.
As Catholics, we need to focus on restoring our Church and its mission and structure during this delicate time of reopening.
We have no doubt that the faithful will return to their parishes and pick up where they left off, so to speak, as restrictions are gradually eased. We’d love to see lots of them, in fact, at confession on Reconciliation Friday, June 19, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, when confessions will be heard in all parishes of the archdiocese from 10 a.m. to noon and from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
We also want to remind everyone that financial support is critical during this uncertain period.
Our parishes suffered drastic drops in income when their main revenue source (Sunday collections) was suddenly halted. And with many families facing unemployment and income loss of their own, even the Cardinal’s Annual Stewardship Appeal was down from previous years.
Cardinal Dolan pointed out in a pastoral letter last week that the appeal funds many of the services provided by the archdiocese, and the drop in donations comes just as more people are in need of those services. It’s no surprise either that registrations in Catholic schools are down as well, with the archdiocese facing the possible closure of a significant number of schools.
But we don’t want to dwell on a lot of worrisome news; we’ve had enough of that lately.
We’re just grateful that the pandemic that has threatened us for so many months, and taken so many lives, has receded, and we’re overjoyed that our parishes will once again be offering the Masses and sacraments that New York’s Catholics cherish and deserve.