Amidst cries of gladness and thanksgiving, the words of Psalm 122 “kept ringing in my ears”: “I rejoiced when I heard them say, Let us go to the house of the Lord”.
This was the testimony of Msgr William John-Lewis of the Diocese of Roseau on returning to Mass since places of worship in Dominica were allowed to reopen from May 30 with certain restrictions.
“Thank you, Lord, we have come together again, the true healing from this pandemic has finally begun,” Msgr John-Lewis said of that day.
He recalled that as the Entrance Hymn was intoned and the singing of the people filled the church, his heart was overcome with deep gratitude.
At that instant, he realised how tremendously important it is for the Body of Christ to be united in one place, how powerful it is when God’s people gather to express their faith, how necessary, and how uplifting it is to assemble as a community of believers.
“And there was I, as the spiritual leader of the community leading them in worship. What a privilege! What a gift! What an honour!” he said.
He commented that the new protocols—sanitising, wearing of masks and physical distancing—did not dampen the spirit of the community.
A priest for over 30 years, Msgr John-Lewis said he has always considered celebrating the Sunday liturgy one of the most important services he could render to the Church, a time for building his own faith and that of his people.
“…during months prior to the ‘reopening’ of Church, I mourned the loss of that cherished moment. I grieved as one grieves the loss of an only child, I pined and longed for the day when I would find once again my rightful place leading the worshipping community,” he said.
Sanitise minds and hearts
In the Diocese of Montego Bay, Jamaica, Holy Mother Church parishioner Richard Wilson said that since Masses resumed, he has become more “self-conscious” of having a stronger relationship with his fellow brothers and sisters of faith and having a stronger faith in God.
He said while the current practice of maintaining social distancing was “really sad” for him, the months away from church were very difficult and taught him how important technology is and how it can be used to connect people and families who are far apart.
For Antiguan Noleen Azille of the Diocese of St John’s-Basseterre, rich symbolism abounds with the reopening of churches. The Mass under new safety guidelines is neither comfortable nor fun, but it is sacrificial in nature, Azille commented.
She invited persons upon entry to not only sanitise their hands but their minds and hearts as well. The wearing of face masks, she said, challenges all to “close our mouths”, listen and reflect on God’s Word.
Meanwhile Jeanne Latour of the Archdiocese of Fort-de-France, Martinique felt it will take “some time” before things return to the situation before “containment”.
She shared though she is “glad” to see again the faces of her parish priest and brothers and sisters in Christ, she also feels “sad” to miss others. Her own mother is among the elderly. She thought as well of those with a high level of comorbidity, those who can’t wear the mask and prefer to wait till the end of the sanitary rules, those who have fallen in love with the virtual Masses, and also the children.