For almost four months (March to June 2020) I celebrated Mass without my Parishioners, as that was the new norm of celebrating the Eucharist for many of our priests. However, with the relaxation of the Movement Control Order (MCO), churches are reopening and holding public masses with proper guidelines and requirements in place. We have now moved to another new norm of celebrating Mass, with a limited number of people. I feel happy that this new norm has lifted up the face of the Church throughout the country once again. Although the congregation is small, I hear the voices of the Church through the participation of the faithful every Sunday.
The Church of St Joseph, Sentul, reopened for the Eucharistic celebration on Sunday, 28 June 2020. The Parish Response Team (PRT) comprising 7 members, and around 25 volunteers, have been working hard making preparations these past three weeks, and registering Parishioners for Sunday Mass. Of course, they have encountered various obstacles, challenges and hiccups along the way, but overall, the team has been efficient and effective. They have gone through a process of learning, planning, accommodating and adjusting to the requirements of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) which has been laid down by the Federal and State Government and the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur.
When we were planning for the reopening of our church, we decided to extend the invitation to the Basic Ecclesial Committees (BECs). Currently, our Parish has 34 BECs and on the first day of reopening, although 166 persons from BECs 1-9 confirmed attendance, only 159 persons turned up for Mass. The following Sunday (5 July 2020), we had 269 participants registered (from BEC 10-21) but only 216 turned up for Mass. Last Sunday (12 July 2020) we had 263 parishioners from BECs 22-34 who confirmed attendance, but only 217 members attended Mass. Besides our BEC members, we have also extended invitation to those Catholics who regularly attend Weekend Masses at our Parish, but do not belong to any of the BECs in our Parish.
Over these past few Sundays, I noticed that only a few catechism students aged 13 and above as well as young people, registered for the Sunday Mass. These teenagers and young people are probably very comfortable following the many online Masses, (which by the way, are available on various channels throughout the world) from the confines of their homes. I hope parents and the respective BEC leaders would play a greater role in encouraging this group of persons to attend the Sunday Eucharistic celebrations in-person.
We are still in Phase Two of the reopening for the Sunday Eucharistic celebration. We are glad that we have completed a whole cycle, having covered all 34 BECs under our Parish jurisdiction within these first three Sundays, with regards to attendance at mass. This Sunday, 19 July 2020, we have extended invitation once again to BECs 1-17 to attend Mass and the following weekend, invitations will be extended to BECs 18-34. Recently, we would have heard or read about the announcement made by our government that places of worship no longer need to operate at 1/3 capacity (July 10, 2020) but still need to enforce the minimum one-meter social distancing requirement. We will try our best to accommodate between 250-300 Parishioners at Sunday Mass in our Parish, while still ensuring adherence to the social distancing requirement.
In August 2020, we hope to commence Phase Three by celebrating additional Masses in English – Sunset Mass on Saturday and one on Sunday at 9am. Once a month we will have Mass in Tamil for the benefit of our Tamil-speaking Parishioners. During Phase Three, we plan to celebrate the other Sacraments – Baptism for Infants, Matrimony and the Anointing of the Sick.
We have about 10 RCIA candidates for 2019/2020 who have yet to receive the Sacrament of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist). We will celebrate these Sacraments together with the Scrutiny at the end of August or at the beginning of September 2020. We also have our Confirmation students who will receive their Sacrament later this year. His Grace, Archbishop Julian Leow, will administer the Sacrament of Confirmation on our 24 students in October 2020 in our Parish. The respective teachers and facilitators will continue to conduct lessons online during the months of August and September. I hope the candidates and students will be more responsible and serious about their lessons and their final preparations, before receiving the Sacraments.
We hope to have the support and cooperation of all our Parishioners in order to ensure a smooth flow for our celebration of Jesus in our lives. Please adhere to the guidelines and SOPs when attending mass, and kindly follow the instructions of our PRT members and volunteers. We want you to be physically safe, and spiritually healthy.
Rev. Fr. George Packiasamy