EDITOR’S NOTE: What a glorious day to begin outdoor Masses in the Diocese of Bridgeport! The mood was one of joy, gratitude and reverence in the parishes that resumed the public celebration of Mass. The much awaited return to Mass approved by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano on the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord was a great gift and historic moment in the diocese. It the first stage of a phased-in plan to bring people together for Mass while practicing social distancing and using other safeguards to protect all from the coronavirus. Fairfield County Catholic will be sharing stories of the re-opening of Mass this weekend and in the coming days.
MONROE— “We did our first parking lot mass at 12 noon today and the thank you’s are coming in from the parishioners,” says Father Henry Hoffman, pastor of St. Jude Parish in Monroe.
“The people waited two long months to finally receive the Eucharist… and they are grateful for the opportunity,” says Father Hoffman who noted that St Jude’s also had a 6 pm Mass and will hold Masses at 12 noon and 6 pm on Sunday.
Father Hoffman said that many parishioners over the past two months have sent emails, texts and phone calls and held Facetime and Zoom sessions indicating how much they have missed receiving the Eucharist, and he offered this reflection at the first parking lot Mass.
“What a wonderful opportunity for everyone to come together for parking lot Masses, to celebrate the Ascension and to receive communion,” said Father Hoffman.
“After two months of social distancing, quarantining and attending Mass virtually, finally we were able to come together as a parish family to pray together and receive the Eucharist together,” he said.
“Many thanks to our parish volunteers who worked through all of the logistics to enable us to celebrate Mass, while the parishioners sat in their cars and listened to me through the radio, and then car by car exited and observed social distancing and safety protocols while receiving communion,” Father Hoffman said.
“As a parish family, we had all been praying together for a couple of months for this moment and during the past week, we prayed for good weather so that we did not get rained out. And it all came about beautifully. God is good!”
Father Hoffman continued, “I find it so uplifting to see how the volunteers and parishioners were so anxious to receive the Eucharist that they were all able to come together to bring about the reality of our parking lot Masses.”
“At the Ascension, Jesus left his immediate followers to figure out how to take the Church forward. It is fitting that our first parking lot Mass took place on the Ascension when we as a parish family came together to figure out how to take St. Jude Church forward.”
The sun was out. There was a gentle breeze. Shortly before twelve noon, the cars began to show up. The volunteer ushers wearing masks directed the cars to the pre-designated spots all marked by traffic cones, to keep the cars a safe distance from one another. The drivers tuned their car radios to the proper FM station and Father Henry’s voice filled the cars as Mass began.
When it came time for communion, the volunteer ushers wearing masks, escorted the parishioners out of their cars one at a time. They came forward, observing social distancing and received communion from the clergy who wore masks and face shields.
“The safety protocols were all followed so that all could safely receive the Eucharist,” said Father Hoffman.
“Today is a great day for St. Jude Parish, Monroe. Our first outdoor parking lot Mass was at noon on Ascension Thursday. Over 30 cars and about 60 parishioners were in attendance!” reports Vic Eng, a parishioner of St. Jude Parish who helped to plan and coordinate the Mass.
“It was a great event that went smoothly from start to finish! On a beautiful sunny day!,” he says of today’s first outdoor Mass celebrated by Father Hoffman, pastor and Father Jim Bates, parochial vicar.
Regina Schwartz, one of the St. Jude trustees agrees, and she’s deeply grateful that Mass is back in the diocese.
“A great big thank you to all of you for giving us our Mass back! Today’s Mass was so beautiful, so moving and so needed. You did a wonderful job organizing it as everything seemed so smooth and seamless and easy,” said Schwartz.
“God gave us a glorious day as our backdrop and it was a special moment that I will never forget,” she continued. “Receiving our Lord in the Eucharist left me in tears for quite a while after. And honestly, I didn’t know what to expect and had no idea it would be this special. I look forward to more.”
Father Bates offered this beautiful and thoughtful reflection on the return to Mass, which once again re-unites the priests and faithful in public worship:
“It is a great joy to once more celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with the people of Saint Jude in attendance, even in a limited way. The current pandemic has required a necessary distance between us as clergy and those whom we have been called to serve, particularly in the celebration of Mass and reception of the Holy Eucharist. I know that the people of St. Jude have keenly felt the pain of being separated from this essential and lifegiving part of their life of faith. For all of the opportunities that there are to watch Mass via live streaming, there is no substitution for gathering as a people of faith to participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and to partake of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ truly present in the Holy Eucharist. We must remain prudent as we resume public Masses and proceed slowly lest we, in our exuberance to gather once more as members of the Mystical Body of Christ on earth, inadvertently put those whom we love at risk. The celebration of Mass outdoors in a parking lot presents a number of challenges and is not designed to be a long-term solution, but it is a good way to start and the response, so far, has been positive.”
Father Bates continued, “I look forward to the day when we have a cure for COVID-19 and can throw open the doors of our churches without concern. Until that day, we will do all that we can to keep our people safe and healthy of body as we find new and creative ways to feed their souls and nurture their faith.”