GRAND RAPIDS — After more than two months of closure to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, parishes in the Diocese of Grand Rapids will be able to resume public masses on Friday, May 29.
The first weekend masses in parishes will occur on May 30-31, the Feast of Pentecost.
“These past few months have required significant sacrifice,” said Bishop David John Walkowiak. “I am grateful to our pastors and their parish staffs who kept our churches open and worked to support the faithful through this time. Through it all, we have continued to bear witness to Jesus Christ through new methods of evangelization and outreach, through the sacraments, and prayer.
“I thank you for your patience and for showing your love of neighbor during this pandemic.”
Reopening will proceed carefully and in phases, the Bishop said. Upon reopening, churches will be able to allow for 25 percent seating capacity for masses, baptisms, weddings, and funerals.
All Catholics within the territory of the Diocese of Grand Rapids are granted a dispensation from their obligation of attending Sunday Mass through June 30.
“Obviously, we’re excited to be able to bring people back here for mass,” said Father Dave Gross of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Spring Lake. “We’re going to have up to 25 percent capacity from our church, depending on how many people are able to or willing to come back once we open up.
“We’ll be blocking off pews so there are two open pews between people. Given the restrictions, we have to try to keep everyone safe while at the same time wanting to provide in-person worship and ability to provide communion to people in this area.”
Father Gross said that while details are still being finalized, he expects to use some type of an advanced registration system that would allow people to reserve spots at different masses. He said they’ll also set our chairs spaced out in the gym, with the service broadcast over a closed-circuit TV, in case they reach capacity in the main church.
Those age 65 and over and those with underlying health conditions are encouraged to watch from home, as St. Mary’s will continue to livestream services.
“I’m excited about it. I think we are taking all the precautions necessary to maintain social distancing trying to balance safety with desire ability to worship God in person recognizing there is nothing that’s 100 percent safe,” Father Gross said.
Father Gross said he expects the first mass to be held on Friday, May 29 at 9 a.m.; check the church’s website in case that time changes.
Father Gross said he’s learned a lot in the several weeks of remote church services.
“It’s been a mixed bag,” he said. “There have been more people who have participated in being able to watch some of our masses since we’ve been live-streaming weekend and weekday masses. Some people mentioned they’re excited to be able to watch the celebrations we’ve had once they get off work, and I’ve also heard some grumblings that we haven’t been able to gather to receive communion.”