In my neck of the woods, the general over-all feeling is we are on the downside of this pandemic. I am no doctor or scientist to be able to confirm or deny if this is true, it's just the reality on the ground in my little sliver of life in southeast Louisiana. It is true that positivity rates are low and continue to track lower, hospitalizations are also lower, very, very manageable, more and more folks are getting vaccinated, despite a fairly boisterous no-vaccine crowd in these parts. The statewide mask mandate is now lifted, as it also is in our civil parish (county). I also know that we still hear numbers reported everyday of new cases, even new deaths, although these numbers are so much lower than last year, even 6 months ago. Somewhere in the middle of this lies the truth. The truth has been, at times, an elusive thing during this pandemic; I like to believe not a malicious thing, just an understanding, or lack of understanding thing. But here we are, early May 2021, some 14 months and change since we were told of this virus, how we should react and subsequent lock-downs and restrictions.
At my home church parish, St. Jane de Chantal, a nice parish with good membership in what used to be regarded as Bible-belt territory just north of very Catholic New Orleans, the return to church, to Mass and the devotions has been strong. This past weekend was the first weekend without both numbers restrictions and mask mandates and in just 4 short weeks, the dispensation to attend Mass will expire and the obligation restored. Our own Archbishop, Gregory Aymond, had us read his letter this weekend to the congregation explaining the why behind his decision.
One thing for sure, no matter where we were during the pandemic, we did not miss a beat. We self-taught the intricacies of filming and live-streaming the Mass, making many oops along the way. Whether Mass was without parishioners in the pew, then maybe 10, then a certain percent, to today, we powered through and continued to offer the Mass, to proclaim the Word of God, to have Sacraments available as best we could. Today we are back to our full slate of Masses which includes 7 weekday Masses, 2 anticipated vigil Masses, and 4 Masses on Sunday, including 1 in the extraordinary form. This weekend, we had very large turnouts, not at every Mass but at least 3 of them. Baptisms are coming in very frequently, some weddings as well.
This past weekend we celebrated the second group of children receiving 1st Holy Communion. We decided to have 2 groups as an abundance of caution. We also celebrated our May Crowning of the Blessed virgin Mary with a nice crowd of parishioners. Also this past weekend we concluded our Consecration to St. Joseph program. As you can see, we could call this a pretty active and busy weekend.
I know whatever the times and circumstances are God is in control and calls us to holiness. We persevered through a worldwide pandemic in the 21st century and are now coming through the other side, with hope that things will continue to improve. Speaking personally, I now realize that I really am pleased to see so many people back in church, at mass, worshipping in community as compared to those earliest days of the pandemic lockdown.
Many thanks to the clergy and staff of our parish as well as the parishioners who made it possible for us to continue to operate throughout the many challenges. We still are called to be vigilant and we will be. For now our invitation is to return to Mass, to come home to the parish family and to give glory and honor to God in community, in our parish family.