Come this Friday the state of Louisiana is lifting the over two month long stay at home order and is moving into a Phase I reopening plan. For the Archdiocese of New Orleans this is big news because each individual parish can increase worshippers to 25% of the state fire marshal limit. For an example, my home parish church in Abita Springs will be able to accommodate 75. Other much larger parishes will be able to hold 150 even 200 in one case I'm aware of. Despite having many grand old large churches in the city of New Orleans itself attendance in all cases is limited to 100 due to a more restrictive ruling by the Mayor of the Crescent City.
So we must emphasis several points that are just as important as the new numbers being allowed into the church for Mass. Most important thing to remember, the Archbishop's dispensation about attending Mass is still in force. So it is perfectly ok and in obedience to the Church to stay home, to wait until your more comfortable or to wait until we can fit more folks in our holy places of worship. Additionally older Catholics and Catholics who are vulnerable due to various medical conditions are encouraged to stay home. While not required, there are several parishes who actually plan to take parishioners temperature before coming in for Mass. Once inside everyone is expected to social distance, 6 ft, apart in every direction and they must wear a mask. Surely, and we've seen it already, there will be many "I know better than the Church" Catholics who will strenuously object to wearing the mask. Even the Priest and Deacon, and if there be any EMHC needed(not likely for goodness sake) must wear masks to distribute Holy Communion. Communion on the tongue is highly discouraged although I can assure you this will not be enforced and will not even bother many local Priests. No physical contact at Our Father(and there is not supposed to be anyway) and either no invitation to share the sign of peace or if there be one, a simple bow or wave; absolutely no handshakes or hugs. Oh yes, no communion from the cup. In addition to the mask everyone is encouraged to bring hand sanitizer. Finally, somebody, and in our case we don't know who yet, is expected to wipe down every pew and contacted surface between masses.
To try and accommodate a larger number of worshippers, at St. Jane we will be offering 6 masses. Someone is going to very tired.
By June 5th there is a good chance that we will be able to move to the next phase. Despite several people prematurely announcing that the next phase means a full church this is not so. The actual number or percentage is not determined but according to a governor's assistant the most likely plan is to move to 50%.
Parishes are encouraged to continue live streaming and offering periods of Eucharistic Adoration and continue whatever arrangements for Reconciliation they have in place.
Here is the bottom line; we are moving to a more robust response to get the faithful to Mass and Holy Communion. But there should be no expectation that this means the Coronavirus is not to be taken lightly or for granted. All the rules and regulations put in place by the various dioceses, in our case the Archdiocese of New Orleans, are done to keep everyone as safe as possible while responding to the holy desire for Mass and Jesus in the Eucharist. If we reject proper authority, if we cling hard-headedly to my way or highway mentality, we could find ourselves again in some time of stay at home quarantine. We surely do not want that. So we all do our part; masks, social distancing, hand sanitizer, common sense respect!
Here is a local article from New Orleans daily paper...https://www.nola.com/news/coronavirus/article_9e98f960-9452-11ea-80ea-fb5737d00038.html