Facing the Challenge of a Power Outage
When I arrived at my new parish in July of this year, we put a plan together for having Mass during the pandemic. While we have been able to conduct holy Mass indoors during the week, we decided to have Mass outdoors on Sundays except for one virtual Mass. The rationale behind this decision was that, given the volume of people for Sunday Mass coupled with the mandated restrictions regarding capacity, we would not have to turn people away from the Eucharist. Furthermore, we would not have to worry about cleaning and sanitizing the church after each Mass. Essentially, it was the best way to make the holy Eucharist available and to keep everyone as safe as possible and to save wear and tear on the pews from the sanitizing process.
At both sites, we made the necessary accommodations to make this work over the long haul. For example, at St. Alphonsus, we converted the deck of the parish house into a sanctuary that overlooks the parking lot. Thanks to the efforts of some of our men, the deck is enclosed with plexiglass. The music ministry operates from the garage below. People remain in their cars and listen to the Mass at 89.5 on their radio dial. When it is time for holy Communion, the faithful exit the cars and approach the stations in a socially distant manner to receive the Eucharist.
At the St. Alexis site, we made arrangements to build a pavilion in the orchard that overlooks the parking lot. The pavilion is large enough to house the music ministry team. It is also enclosed with plexiglass. When the pandemic is over, the pavilion will serve as a wonderful outdoor meeting space.
Recently, I celebrated the 10 a.m. Sunday Mass at the St. Alexis site. The parking lot was packed as many families were coming to Mass to prepare the way of the Lord. Mass began with the customary procession from the church sacristy to the pavilion. After reverencing the altar, I began to speak into the microphone the Sign of the Cross. Immediately, it was evident that we had lost power. There were no mikes, nor was there any music. The liturgy team tried feverishly to restore power but to no avail.
I directed the liturgy team of server, reader, cantor and organist to follow me out into the parking lot where we began to pray, albeit without any microphones. Amazingly, without any announcement or direction, the people exited their cars and came closer but maintained social distancing to hear God’s Word. It all happened so naturally, as if the people were running to embrace a family member or friend.
During the Liturgy of the Word, I called an audible. I feel as though it was the Holy Spirit directing me what to do. Knowing that the faithful would never be able to hear the Liturgy of the Eucharist being prayed I called this audible. Following a very brief homily, we prayed the prayers of the faithful and then transitioned to a Communion service. Thankfully, there were enough consecrated Hosts in the tabernacle to meet the needs of that gathering.
In so many ways, the pandemic has been an obstacle to the practicing of our faith. Churches were closed for some time. Now that the churches are opened, there are restrictions on capacity. Sacred celebrations such as weddings, funerals, ordinations, first holy Communions and confirmations have been compromised at times. It has not been easy.
The power failure at the outdoor Mass became yet another challenge. Nevertheless, the faithful from St. Aidan Parish who were gathered together refused to allow this obstacle to impede them from hearing God’s Word and receiving the holy Eucharist. Even at a time when the Sunday obligation has been temporarily lifted, hundreds of people gathered to practice their faith and to prepare the way of the Lord. What faith!
BISHOP-ELECT DAVID J. BONNAR, editor of The Priest, has been appointed bishop of the Diocese of Youngstown. Follow and like The Priest magazine on Facebook.