BETHEL—Stop, look, remember and listen was the message shared with worshippers at St. Mary Parish on Sunday, June 14, marking the celebration of Corpus Christi and the reopening of the church for the first time following nine-months of extensive renovations.
“We mark this feast just once a year but we actually celebrate the gift of Christ himself each time we go to Mass,” said Pastor Father Corey V. Piccinino, at the first indoor Mass offered since March. “Every time we receive the Eucharist we celebrate Corpus Christi, the body of Christ, becoming living tabernacles.”
Corpus Christi is the solemn commemoration of the institution by Christ of the Holy Eucharist as a sacrament and the Church’s official act of homage and gratitude to Christ for this gift.
Father Piccinino said Catholics should approach receiving communion with wonder and awe. “Behold a miracle is happening. A mystery is happening right in front of you and the greatest holy gift is given to you.”
Congregants gathered at the Mass, shared the sentiment.
“To receive for the first time (since March), it’s like my First Holy Communion. This is great,” said Edith Jaccarino of Redding.
“The Mass was wonderful. It’s a joy to be back,” said fellow parishioner, Marilyn Murray of Newtown.
“We’ve been coming every day to say the Rosary,” she said. The women are part of a group that prays the Rosary daily at the church. The Dodgingtown Road church is the only Catholic church in Bethel and is open every day.
“Part of the joy of being back is tempered by what we need to now do,” Father Piccinino said, with a nod of acknowledgment to precautions that need to be taken to keep everyone safe.
Congregants must pre-register online to attend mass. The newly renovated church which can hold 850 people, is allowing up to 65 people in the church at a time. All in attendance must wear masks. Seating areas are roped off to maintain proper social distancing, missals and hymnals are absent from the pews and there are signs to guide people where to stand when consuming communion.
About two dozen volunteers attending the Mass made navigating the changes easy. Markers were also placed in the parking lot to maintain one empty parking space in between each vehicle.
Father Piccinino encouraged congregants to stop and take the time to look and see the ever-changing and new world we live in and listen with our eyes, ears and hearts to recognize the importance of each other and our duty to protect one another in these challenging times.
“This disease (COVID-19) is real,” he said. “We need to keep safe. That is our Christian duty.”
Father Piccinino said he has heard and understands the frustrations of parishioners wanting to return to a pre-pandemic way of life including going to church and receiving the Eucharist.
“This is not a punishment from God or from the Church. This is what is best for everyone now. We have to care about the least of our brothers and sisters (who may be susceptible to the coronavirus). We have to protect each other in that one body (of Christ).”
Father Piccinino said his cousin, thankfully, has recovered from the coronavirus after twice almost falling victim to it.
“If you don’t have a personal experience with someone who has had it, you don’t see the need for (all of these precautions),” he said.
The church has been streaming Masses on Facebook and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The live-streamed Masses have given parishioners a glimpse into the beautifully renovated church.
There is much symbolism throughout the church from the painting of the dove above the altar with light emanating from it, to the tile work on the floor that commemorates the Trinity and so much more. There is even a painting on the wall depicting the original 1883 Gothic-style church that still stands on Greenwood Avenue. A book highlighting all the changes and symbolism will be available soon.
“The renovated church is beautiful and uplifting. It gives me hope,” said Filomenia Magrino, who attended the Mass with her husband, Joseph. “It felt very peaceful to be back.” He agreed, “It’s nice to return to our Sunday routine.”
By Kathy-Ann Gobin