The last two weeks have seen both highs and lows, which, unfortunately, are ending on a low for the parishes within Marion County.
On May 6, the bishops of the five dioceses of Indiana announced that by the weekend of May 30-31, which is Pentecost Sunday, Catholic churches in the state of Indiana could resume the public celebration of weekend Masses. This news was met with great joy. Each bishop was charged with establishing guidelines and protocols for the reopening of the churches and the gradual resumption of the celebration of the sacraments within his respective diocese.
On May 8. Archbishop Thompson issued a letter allowing for the phased opening of churches in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis as early as May 13. That letter was followed by eight pages of guidelines and protocols that parishes would need to implement to ensure the safety of all who would enter our churches for private prayer and the celebration of the sacraments. These guidelines made it possible for parishes to resume the public celebration of weekend Masses as early as May 23-24. The implementation of the plan would be delayed by some days in Marion County because of the stay-in-place order that had been continued through May 15.
As you can imagine there has been a flurry of activity as pastoral leaders began studying the guidelines and protocols and preparing for their implementation. The guidelines foresaw a limited number of people being allowed to participate at Mass to ensure the social distancing that has become a part of our lives. Thirty percent occupancy was the formula used in the guidelines. A church like the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul which holds 900 worshipers would, therefore only allow 270 people in the cathedral at any one time. A church like Christ the King which holds 450 people could welcome no more than 135 people.
On May 13, Indianapolis Mayor Hogsett held a morning news conference in which he announced that while the stay-at-home order was being lifted, gatherings for church services would be limited to 25 people at any one time until at least the first week of June, no matter the size of the church or the size of the congregation. The mayor, in terms of churches, synagogues and mosques has, unfortunately, established a one-size fits-all policy for people of faith in Marion County.
That news conference brought the plans of most Indianapolis parishes to a screeching halt. As we await word from the Archbishop, it is likely that the public celebration of Masses at most parishes in Indianapolis will now be pushed back until June.
I thank you for your patience and understanding as we try strive to obey both civil and religious authorities in the unprecedented times in which we live. As I said, it has been a time of highs and lows. This week ends on a low. Hopefully, next week will see some highs as we find the way forward. Now is a good time to pray, "Come Holy Spirit, Come!"
In God's love, Fr. Todd