Parishioners applauded when St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Valley, Nebraska, reopened for Mass recently.
“They were so happy to be at Mass,” reported Fr. Lloyd Gnirk. They also cheered at St. Robert Bellarmine Catholic Church in Omaha, Nebraska, added Debbie Marcil, pastoral associate.
Fr. Gnirk’s and Marcil’s comments were part of a panel discussion hosted by the Steier Group that centered on the topic: “Welcome Home … Our Return to Worship.” Panelists reported that parishioners were excited to be back at Mass – but the numbers of attendees weren’t what they expected.
Fr. TJ Dolce, pastor at St. Martha Catholic Church in Kingwood, Texas, offered two suggestions for parishes and congregations that are reopening for worship:
- Don’t expect big numbers.
- Have a plan for hospitality. Be welcoming.
Fr. Ryan Lewis, pastor at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Omaha, offered two suggestions of his own:
- Make attendance preferential. Encourage people to stay home if they aren’t comfortable coming.
- Keep the service simple. No music, fewer ministers leading service.
Fr. Gnirk also encouraged religious leaders to expect the unexpected. “Everything is new. There is no normal.”