Our Laity Cautious On Opening Churches
Reaction by laity to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement last week was mixed, with a sense of caution outweighing unqualified welcome.
Here are some of the voices from the Southern Cross Facebook page and the popular #ImStayingCatholic groups.
Clint Newkirk was straightforward: “Nothing wonderful about this [announcement]. Pray at home.” Gail McKeith agreed: “We are the church…we have it in our heart always.”
Ntokozo Majola said: “I hope priests and parishioners will be able to exercise discretion on whether to resume Mass or not.”
Debrah Motopheng said she was excited about returning to Mass, but counselled: “I hope parishioners will be very considerate for our priests.” She said people have become used to 30-minute Masses on Radio Veritas and suggested to “keep the momentum as a number of Masses might increase”. Calling for discipline, she said “this is the time to listen to the priest’s proposed plans”.
Patricia Dourans wrote: “This is a logistical nightmare. How are priests to enforce the hygiene protocols and control the limitation of 50? It’s prudent to continue as currently with live broadcasts.”
However, Bronwyn Curtis responded: “It’s only a logistical nightmare if the priest is expected to do all the work and logic is not applied. Parishioners need to help with counting numbers, sanitising at entrances and sanitising after. “Our parish did this before Level 5 lockdown when numbers had been restricted to 100. It worked. People who would like to go to Mass can [do so], and those who prefer to watch at home can do that too.”
Kagiso Sedumedi urged caution: “People must be very careful. No one guarantees your safety. I will stick to Zoom” livestreamed Masses.
Edith Bezuidenhout likewise said that she would attend church only “when all is clear”. For now, “I praise Him from my heart.” Some said they would not return until a vaccine becomes widely available because of underlying health issues, such as asthma, or because they are in a vulnerable age group.
Elizabeth Oberholzer suggested: “It would probably be more prudent, specially for the aged, to choose a weekday Mass to attend until the worst is over at least.”
Magda Kus expressed concern for celebrants: “At a Mass, the person exposed most to the virus is the priest offering it (when distributing Communion). We need to be sure we’re doing it right. If he succumbs, even if ‘only’ to the extent of needing to be hospitalised, we’re back to square one… and we won’t even be able to see him on online Mass.”
Francis Mnyele offered a solution: “If we cannot afford to sanitise our Church buildings, there is no law preventing outdoor Masses. They are doing it in some places already and it seems a lot safer than indoors, with all the masks and sanitisers and distancing included. South Africa is blessed with warm weather even in winter.” He noted a story he read “where people bring their saucers to Mass. Then they in their turn place their saucers at the steps of the Church building and Father deposits the Communion [host] in there”
Sibongile Tshabalala wrote: “I’m also happy [about President Ramaphosa’s announcement] but worried about social distancing.” She echoed the need for parishioners to cooperate in a time that “won’t be the same” as it was. “Pray for our priest and our Church leadership.”