By Jessica Easthope
The Archdiocese of New York announced plans to reopen its 288 churches in phases, a sign New York is emerging from months of isolation.
“It’s time for an appropriately gradual and staggered reopening of services,” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
Cardinal Dolan spoke May 22 at Our Saviour Parish in Midtown Manhattan about caring for parishioners, physically and spiritually.
“We’ve got the moral imperative everybody to protect the health of our people and the wider community. We have been doing that and we will continue to do that. We also have a duty to care for the hearts and souls of our people,” said Cardinal Dolan.
Preparations for a gradual reopening called the “Faith Forward” plan is a five-phase approach that will start with churches reopening for private prayer and confessions, followed by baptisms and marriages, Holy Communion outside of Mass, weekday and funeral Masses with limited seating and finally Sunday Mass with supervised attendance.
People like Najwa Najame have been coming to Our Saviour every day during the pandemic.
“I’ve been coming here and saying prayers and then leaving, I’ve been doing the same thing every day,” said Najwa.
Though she’s made her daily, private prayer a priority, getting back to Mass and receiving the Eucharist is what she’s missed most.
“It would be Masses all over again, I’ve missed it. We’ve had no masses and hopefully we’ll have that again,” Najwa said.
The archdiocese is hoping Masses will resume in full in around six weeks and when they do things, will be different. Only the host will be offered during communion, and no physical contact will be allowed during the sign of peace.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio agreed that safety is paramount, and that the Diocese of Brooklyn will follow the archdiocese’s lead.
“We have to do both, we have to care for the bodies and souls of our people,” he said. “We will move slowly and surely to get to maximize participation as quickly as we can.”
One of the biggest changes to the Mass? Churches will be limited to only 25 percent capacity and will be disinfected regularly. Hand sanitizer will be available to parishioners and everyone in church will have to sit six feet apart.
“The desire of the people including the priests to get these churches open and for us to return to Mass and the sacraments,” said Monsignor Joseph LaMorte, Vicar General for the Archdiocese of New York. “Everyone misses them very, very much.”