When Can We Get Back to Church?

Fr. Joel Church meets World

What peace we have, even in this wounded world where the battle rages on. We will not fear, for we know who heals our souls. Hallelujah is our song!

When can we get back to church? I’ve had some variation of this conversation at least a dozen times. I know two things for sure: We will be open for public Masses at some point, and Mass will look a little different when we do open up. The Archdiocese of Milwaukee has published a three-page plan called the Catholic Comeback. They plan to limit attendance to 25% of the church’s capacity and will enforce social distancing by using only every other or every 3rd pew. Ushers will be wearing masks and not shaking hands. The collection will take place by large baskets at the entrances or baskets on handles. All missals or paper will be removed from the pews. The plan takes effect the weekend of May 30-31.

In the Green Bay Diocese we are awaiting guidance from Bishop Ricken and his team. Governor Evers’ Safer-at-home order is set to expire May 26. He doesn’t plan to allow gatherings of more than 10 until Phase 2 of the “Badger Bounce-back Plan.” Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have recently doubled in both Brown County and Oconto County. If I were a betting man, I wouldn’t put money on the last weekend in May.

I have a leadership team that has been discussing these issues with me. I call them the Health Emergency Response Ministry Team (or HERMiT for short). The team is Lori Scanlan, Sue Beschta, Kevin Smits, Dave Westenberg, Amy Dessart, and Bill Dolan. They are a kind of staff meeting and mini parish council combined. I am grateful for their support. I also plan to hold a combined Parish Council and Finance Council for all three parishes virtually on Thursday, May 14. We will take a look at where things stand and plan for the future.

I continue to be grateful for my amazing staff and wonderful parishioners. You have been so encouraging, supportive, patient, and grateful. I have had a great deal of peace throughout this whole experience. The peace comes, not from watching the news or from feeling in control, but rather from knowing that I am loved by God and I am being taken care of. God will provide, protect, and support me. When I start feeling to feel that peace slip away, it is a sign that I have taken my eyes of God and am looking at the battle (or the waves) raging around me. But all I have to do is say, “Lord, save me!” and Jesus is right there to take my hand. I pray that you, too, are experiencing Christ’s peace and Easter joy.

~Fr. Joel