Little by little, Lawton is coming back to life after weeks on a “Safer At Home” order due to the COVID-19 health crisis. Now local churches are moving toward re-opening their doors.
This week, Catholic parishes across the state will resume public Masses, including Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church and Holy Family Catholic Church in Lawton.
Blessed Sacrament will offer its first public Mass Monday morning, and Holy Family will resume its regular Mass schedule on Tuesday.
Blessed Sacrament also will start offering two daily Masses, six days a week, to give parishioners more attendance options. The church typically offers only one Mass a day. Now, Monday through Saturday, the church will offer public Mass at 7:30 a.m. and noon.
“Hopefully offering more times will help people spread out,” said Very Rev. Brian Buettner, Blessed Sacrament pastor.
The church will offer its first public Sunday Mass on May 24 at its usual times, 8:30 and 11 a.m. A limited number, likely 100, will be allowed entry to each Mass to help maintain social distancing. Attendees will be encouraged to sit spaced apart and receive communion on the hand rather than via the tongue, as is commonly practiced.
Mass celebrants will wear masks when distributing communion, and Buettner encouraged parishioners to wear masks and bring hand sanitizer. Volunteers will clean the high-touch surface areas in the church between Masses.
Though many are ready to regularly attend services soon, Buettner said not everyone plans to be at Mass next Sunday.
“Quite a few parishioners have said they will stay home,” he said, encouraging anyone who is sick, at higher risk for illness or uncomfortable in public right now to hold off on attending Mass.
Buettner added that he is “excited” to re-open the church, but emphasized that the health of Blessed Sacrament parishioners is at the top of his mind.
“I’m very cautious with my people,” he said. “We want to try to do everything we can to keep them safe.”
Holy Family will again offer regular public Masses starting Tuesday. The parish will offer weekly Masses at 6 p.m. Tuesday and noon on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Thursday’s Mass is open only to those 60 or older.
On the weekends, the church will resume regular Masses at 4:30 p.m. Saturday and noon Sunday, with a bilingual Mass at 9 a.m. Sunday.
“We will keep 6 feet of distance between parishioners and have clearly marked the pews and aisles to help with this,” Holy Family leaders said in a written statement to The Constitution.
Both parishes have shared services online and offered outdoor confession times throughout the health crisis. According to Buettner, it’s been a challenging time.
“It’s been really sad to celebrate Mass by myself every day,” Buettner said. “I’m looking forward to being with my people again.”
On May 6, Archbishop Paul Coakley and Bishop David Konderla released a plan for how Catholic churches in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and the Diocese of Tulsa will resume public Mass.
“Based upon guidance from civic leaders and public health authorities as well as in consultation with local medical professionals, a task force comprised of priests and laity, and the Presbyteral Councils of both dioceses, we are issuing the ‘Timeline and Procedures for Resumption of Public Mass and Sacramental Life,’ which will be in effect in both the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and the Diocese of Tulsa and Eastern Oklahoma until further notice,” said Coakley and Konderla in a May 6 news release.
The release also said members of the Catholic church remain exempt from attending Sunday Mass while leaders decided on the best course of action for re-opening communities.
“The ever-present temptation in our American culture is to want solutions immediately and to act quickly, because we want what we want, and we want it now. As a Church, we must proceed more deliberatively,” Coakley and Konderla said in the release.
For more information, go to archokc.org/mass.