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Northeast Ohio Catholics Reflect on New Procedures for Mass As They Return to Church

photo of University Parish Newman Center
At the University Parish Newman Center in Kent, parishioner Christine Callahan looks forward to returning soon for in-person mass, saying she misses feeling a sense of community at church.

Catholic Churches in Northeast Ohio are open again for in-person masses. But the services look quite different.

The Cleveland Diocese has set guidelines for social distancing, such as wearing masks and blocking off pews.

Karol Kirk attends St. Eugene Catholic Church in Cuyahoga Falls and says she’s excited for a sense of community again, but the changes will take getting used to.

“We, as a family -- when we say the ‘Our Father’ -- link hands with the other friends around us. It will be difficult with most Catholic churches, the way they’re arranged, to keep the six feet apart.”

Kirk adds that she’s considering returning for mass this Sunday, but possibly not with the entire family, since she has a daughter with compromised immunity.

The diocese’s guidelines also call for 50 percent occupancy at churches when possible.

Christine Callahan attends the Newman Center church at Kent State University Parish. She says she’s hoping to return to Mass this coming Sunday.

“We’re still not required to go: if you’re sick, if you’re compromised, don’t feel like you have to. But I miss being there with our people. But I know that they’re making the adjustments to keep everybody safe. And they’re acknowledging that we’re still a church and we’re doing the best for our congregations.”

The diocese has also said it’s not safe for choirs or congregations to sing together, even if they’re wearing masks. Callahan says she understand the decision, but will miss that part of the service.

Karol Kirk’s husband, Joseph, remembers how different mass already felt just as the coronavirus pandemic took hold in March:

Kirk on the last mass before the pandemic

He’s also been reflecting on the sense of community he feels from being Catholic:

Kirk on the sense of community he feels from being Catholic

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.