We had only 592 people inside our church and 6 outside. The decrease could be due to the rain, holiday weekend, and fears about people not wearing masks. Even so, we had many people attend for the first time.
Mass Inside Outside
4 PM 138 0
6 PM 74 0
8 AM 84 0
10 AM 138 3
12 PM 121 0
2 PM 37 0
Total 592 6
Because many of the fully vaccinated chose to sit close together, we had plenty of room at every Mass. We're ready for hundreds more people.
The overwhelming feedback regarding all the changes has been positive. A few people offered negative feedback. I'll try to respond to them individually on Tuesday or Wednesday. I tried to read the faces of the wide variety of parishioners to get a better sense of where everyone is at. Here's what I'm seeing.
About 50% to 75% are eager to remove the mask, sit close together, and do all the normal churchy things. About 25% are a little skittish and want to be extra careful. Some are terrified. A few want everyone to stop wearing masks. Some are mad and seem to be informed by the political strife in our society.
I don't watch the secular news. I know about the political strife between conservatives and liberals because of the Catholic media I do consult. Yet, that political strife does not inform my decision making about how to implement the bishop's directives. If you are mad about unjust discrimination regarding those who are vaccinated or those who are not, then pray about it, discern the best course of action, and follow through.
At St. John's, we're trying to meet the needs of a wide variety of parishioners. The terrified are like the lost sheep and need very special attention. The skittish need extra space in the church. Those eager about returning to something like normal need the least attention.
I ask all of us to try to understand that some people need more time and care in adapting to our new pandemic situation. Please be patient and allow them to have a space in the church where social distancing is the norm. Likewise, please look kindly upon those who are able to sit closer together.
To Be Fair
Fairness is not treating everyone the same. It's about justice and rendering everyone their due. One of Bishop O'Connell's priorities in his new protocols is making the sacraments available - to both the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. That's what's primarily driving my thinking about seating. I want to make the Mass accessible to more and more people while protecting everyone. The unvaccinated, those in high risk categories, and the fearful need the most protecting.
A few people have criticized my talking about the infirmities of some parishioners. I think that facing reality is important. We need to be mindful of our abilities and disabilities. Just because someone is less capable does not reduce their dignity or God's love for them. If anything, it prompts us to love them more.
I sometimes talk about my brother Patrick. Some of you may remember watching the two part Star Trek episode, "The Menagerie". Christopher Pike was very much paralyzed and got around with a wheelchair that read his mind. When I first saw the show, I wondered how anyone could live with such little facial movement. After my brother Patrick became almost totally paralyzed, I watched the episode again and marveled at how expressive Christopher Pike's face was. My brother Patrick was much more paralyzed and disabled than anyone I've ever met. One of my goals for helping Patrick was to increase his freedom. We developed a language and spent a lot of time together during those five years. While he did not have freedom of movement, Patrick matured nicely to exercise the higher levels of freedom for loving neighbor and God.
Similarly, my father was paralyzed on one side. We worked hard to increase his freedom. I traded my car in for a mini-van with a ramp. That allowed us to care for my father at home except for brief stays in the hospital. My father's freedom to move was very limited, but his more important freedoms increased.
When it comes to parishioners with disabilities or challenges, I'm eager to promote their freedom. I do so in these messages, my bulletin letters, and in homilies. The Lord works through me in the sacraments to draw people closer to Himself. When it comes to Mass under the new protocols, we've made so many changes in just three days. As the six Sunday Masses progressed, I more and more looked for ways to promote the freedom of parishioners.
We celebrate Memorial Day on Monday, the holiday when we remember those in the military who sacrificed their lives for our freedom. Like them, I invite everyone to sacrifice for our parish and one another. Here are some examples.
The fully vaccinated have sacrificed by getting the shots and suffering through any side effects. They sacrifice now by sitting close together so that we have more room in our church.
Those who cannot get a vaccine experience less freedom of movement and can offer up this suffering as a sacrifice.
Some choose not to get a vaccine connected to abortion. I applaud them for their sacrifice.
St. Paul states in 1 Cor 9:22, "I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." I'm eager for us to sacrifice for one another so that we might all be able to come to the table of the Lord. I'm thrilled that so many experienced joy at Mass this weekend. Please join me in helping everyone else to also enter more deeply into the sacred mysteries.
God love you,
Fr. Jim O'Neill
on Sunday, May 30 at 9:47PM