The following are snapshots of the resumption of Masses at level two at the parish level.
Public gatherings were still limited to 100 at the time, but local churches found a way to accommodate parishioners in excess of a hundred.
Attendances were lower than usual as people cautiously found their way back to the pews.
Masses resume in Marlborough
by CATHIE BELL
Masses resumed in Marlborough last weekend, with most of the churches in the Te Whetu o Moana Star of the Sea parish holding services.
Acting parish priest Fr Pat McIndoe, CP, said that, while the turnouts were lower than usual, people were happy to be back at church.
He celebrated Mass in Kaikoura, while assistant parish priest Fr Jacob Kuman, CP, celebrated Masses in Blenheim and Seddon.
“We were good. People were social distancing. It was very well-organised, they made sure people put their names down for contact tracing. I sanitised my hands before Communion.”
Fr McIndoe said people were happy to be back, with about 85 people at Mass in Kaikoura.
“We had a good turnout, about 85 people. That’s very good for Kaikoura. One or two didn’t come, they’re still being careful because of health issues.”
He said that, in Blenheim, the congregation was an older age group, more so than Kaikoura, and there were fewer people at three Mass services. A 5pm Saturday vigil service was held, with a 10am Sunday Mass and an extra 4pm Sunday service also celebrated.
Congregations were about half the size of usual services, and Picton’s Word and Communion service was only about half the size of usual attendance too.
Parishioners’ joy as Takapuna Masses return
by ROWENA OREJANA
About one-third of the parishioners at St Joseph’s Church in Takapuna, or a total of 544 people, went back to church for Mass under level 2. St
Joseph’s parish priest Msgr David Tonks said there was a total of 544 people who attended, spread over six Masses. Their Sunday Mass count average as of November last year was 1411.
The church prepared its hall and the St Joseph Primary School hall in the event that more than 100 people would show up at a given Mass. The plan was to livestream the Mass to the two halls and bring the Eucharist to the parishioners in these areas.
“We used the church hall only for 11am Mass. We didn’t use the school hall, although the livestream relay there was set up,” Msgr Tonks said.
In terms of attendance, the 11 am Sunday Mass had the highest at 133, while the 7pm Sunday Mass recorded the lowest at 44.
“So many parishioners expressed their joy in being back, as well as their gratitude for the efforts we made to provide Masses, taking . . . Covid requirements into account. People also expressed gratitude for efforts made by the parish team to communicate with parishioners during the earlier phases of the pandemic,” he said.
Msgr Tonks said, in the North Shore deanery, Devonport, Glenfield, Beach Haven, East Coast Bays, Hibiscus Coast and Wellsford all provided Saturday and Sunday Masses.
“Most parishes put on extra Masses, trying to avoid having people ‘shut out’ because of the 100 limit. All parishes experienced relatively small numbers at the Masses,” he said.
“However, priests agreed that last Sunday (May 31) was not necessarily an indication of how the future might be: there were many people away for Queen’s Birthday weekend. We know that a significant number, especially of those older, have decided to play safe, and not return to Mass until we return to level 1, or move beyond the period of restrictions,” he said.
Whanganui return with pre-bookings
by SUE SECONI
There was a sense of joy when parishioners of the Catholic Parish of Whanganui — Te Parihi Katorika Ki were finally able to receive Communion.
But with Government limitations in place for the celebration of Mass, there was a sense of strangeness as well.
Public Masses started in St Mary’s Church in the town centre as soon as the new restrictions of level 2 came into effect, on Friday, May 29.
The suburban Churches of Holy Family in Gonville and St Anne’s in Whanganui East were closed throughout the Covid-19 crisis.
In preparation, parish priest Fr Vaughan Leslie, in regular emails to parishioners, asked them to pre-book which of the two Masses each day (9.30am and 5.30pm) they wished to attend that would become their “Sunday”.
Nominating this Mass preference would avoid the risk of being turned away should numbers reach 100.
“People have spread themselves over the 14 Masses on offer, which means that no one would be turned away from Mass.” Fr Leslie said.
The three local priests — Frs Leslie, Nathaniel Brazil and John Roberts — fronted a “returning to Mass” safety video for the parish’s facebook page to familiarise everyone in what to expect.
“I’m pleased we did, because it gave us time to spread the message and be clear what returning to Mass would look like,” Fr Leslie said.
On entering the church main doors, a new role of parish co-ordinator ensured that Government regulations were obeyed i.e. sanitising hands, complete contact tracing register, adhering to the 2-metre social distance when seated and receiving Communion and locking the church doors at the Our Father.
The sign of peace would be expressed with a nod or smile, Communion in the hand, and no holy water when making the sign of the cross.
Since the lockdown Frs Leslie and Brazil provided daily live streaming Masses in their lounge house ‘bubble’ with thousands viewing. A final farewell Mass from this site was celebrated on Thursday, May 28.
“Parishioners have become very comfortable with Mass online. I was asked if streaming would continue, to which I was rather direct and said: no, people need to get back to Mass,” Fr Leslie said.