(LaPorte) - Last week, Catholic churches in the diocese of Gary got their marching orders regarding the reopening of religious services, which mostly began yesterday.
In short, Sunday Masses are open to the faithful through the month of May by invitation only. The burning question is: who gets invited?
Fr. Ian Williams oversees three parishes in LaPorte. He says the answer is mostly strategic.
He says parishioners directly involved in liturgy, like ushers and Eucharistic ministers, were the first to participate this weekend. "The goal," he says, "is to get a core group of people in each parish that have experienced the Mass under these new guidelines, so we have folks who can help others as we open up further."
In the coming weeks, the next wave of invitees will be first communion children and their families, since they missed out on their special day during the shutdown. Adults who are just joining the Church will also get early admission.
Fr. Ian says once Stage 3 kicks in at the end of May, parishes will be better equipped to manage larger groups of worshippers on a regular basis. Each parish has been working to prepare its worship space for social distancing. Every other pew has been roped off, and X's have been marked with painter's tape six feet apart. Taking all the necessary precautions has been challenging enough, but the hardest part was finding supplies. "Let me tell you," Fr. Ian confessed, "getting my hands on the EPA-approved disinfectant was not the easiest thing in the world to do."
While the churches gradually expand their capacities during the coming weeks, Sunday services will still be streamed online in various formats.