By Kaelanne Jordan (Catholic News)
The Holy Family Cathedral and Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Tyrells Catholic Church) will be officially opened for public worship on Saturday, June 6 and Sunday 7, 2020 (Trinity Sunday). All other Catholic chapels and places of worship in Antigua remain closed until further notice, according to a pastoral statement signed by Bishop Robert Llanos of the Diocese of St John’s-Basseterre.
Churches and their worship stations in St Kitts & Nevis, Anguilla, Montserrat and the British Virgin Islands are already opened and will operate according to the civil regulations of their respective territories.
As a consequence of the regulations that govern the gathering of persons in an enclosed structure, the number of persons allowed for each Church celebration is limited depending on the size of the worship space. As a result, the number of Masses available on weekends will be increased accordingly and the times of Masses changed to accommodate the flow of persons in and out of the Church.
The statement said that weekday Masses are likely to resume from Wednesday, July 1, 2020 “but you will be informed accordingly”.
In order for the Churches to properly regulate the number of persons attending Mass, the diocese is introducing a colour-coding system for each Mass.
“This means that you can only enter the Church for a specific Mass if you have the colour-coded card for that Mass time,” the statement said. It explained that the card is a credit card-sized instrument and will be distributed outside the Holy Family Cathedral church entrance from Wednesday, June 3 to Friday, 5. This system will remain enforced until further notice.
Faithful were asked to take note of the following:
- Persons attending Mass will be required to wear a mask throughout the celebration.
- Persons must maintain the appropriate distance between each other at all times except those who live in the same household. Everyone else will be directed to a seat marked with a black tape which maintains the required distance between persons.
- Everyone is required to sanitise their hands before entering the church and at the exit when leaving the church.
- There must be no grouping or congregating of persons before, during or after Mass.
- There must be no sharing of missals or hymn books.
- The church building will be appropriately sanitised before and after each celebration.
- Patience and understanding are asked during this period of adjustment.
- Comply willingly with the instructions given by the ushers and members of the liturgical committee so that there will be a minimum disruption at celebrations.
The statement began with a message from Bishop Llanos stating that however terrible and destructive the COVID-19 pandemic may be to the world and our personal lives, it presents to us an opportunity to envision a new and different world in the future. What that future will be is entirely dependent on the choices we make now and our willingness to let God’s grace inform and direct that future, he said.
He referred to the story and journey of Jesus’ apostles and disciples in the period between His Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven. This period of 50 days between the Resurrection and Pentecost was an experience that enabled the apostles and disciples to grow into an ever-deeper faith that would allow them to be open to and receive the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. “Spiritually, psychologically, and emotionally they had to traverse a terrain of grief and loss, uncertainty, and doubt, hope and misunderstanding before they could accept with joy Jesus separated from them in His humanity at the Ascension. This was however only so that He could be united with them forever in His Divinity at Pentecost,” he said.
Until the experience of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, none of them could begin to imagine what this New Life and New Man would be like far less the transformation that would take place within each of them to make them true disciples of Jesus Christ. This experience would mean the beginning of Christianity and indeed a whole new world.
Bishop Llanos said that very much like in this COVID-19 era, Jesus had to engage in ‘social distancing’ e.g. “do not cling to me Mary” and “if I do not go to my Father, I cannot send the Holy Spirit”. The disciples were ‘self-quarantining’ in fear of the Jews and hiding behind closed doors.
“Such is the journey one must make to prepare for something new and something greater,” the bishop said.
Things would not be as before, and we ought not to demand that they should be lest we lose our opportunity for a New Life in Christ. As we come face-to-face with the changes that are going to happen let us do so, he urged, with a profound generosity of heart, openness and respect towards others and a willingness to make sacrifices for the good of everyone.