Father Jim Gretz is philosophical when it comes to new directives related to COVID.
“It’s about adjusting to change,” said Father Gretz, pastor of Saint Matthew Parish in Etna/Glenshaw/Millvale/ Reserve Township.
On May 14, Bishop David Zubik announced that effective immediately, fully vaccinated people may attend Mass and all gatherings on parish properties in the diocese without wearing a face covering. The announcement was in continued alignment with local, state and federal health guidelines.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control say people are fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving a second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after the single-dose Johnson & Johnson/Janssen shot.
Pastors are maintaining sections of pews in their churches to accommodate those who are not fully vaccinated, or for people who may feel more comfortable seated around others who are wearing masks.
Parishes will continue to follow cleaning and sanitizing protocols, which currently advise that buildings should be cleaned once a day.
On Memorial Day, Monday, May 31, another important step toward reopening takes place as all churches in the diocese may return to 100 percent seating capacity.
“The people of our parish have been looking forward to it,” said Father Larry Adams, moderator of team ministry at Christ the Divine Shepherd Parish in Monroeville/Penn Hills. “When I talk to folks about coming back to church when they’re ready, they say they’re relieved and happy to be with their community.”
The parish sponsored a food truck event at North American Martyrs Church on May 15, and plans are underway for an Octoberfest that was postponed by the pandemic.
“One parishioner had tears in her eyes coming up for communion,” Father Adams said. “It meant that much to her.”
At Christ Our Savior Parish on Pittsburgh’s North Side and the Shrines of Pittsburgh, Father Nick Vaskov said they’ve had good success in keeping people engaged.
“We maintained the same Mass schedule, and have taken opportunities to hold virtual events,” he said, noting that Father Larry DiNardo held a Bible study in-person that was well-attended on Zoom.
“We will need that kind of creativity going forward,” Father Vaskov said.
“As we have seen at several points throughout this pandemic, health guidance and directives can change rapidly,” said Bishop Zubik. “I continue to express my gratitude for the flexibility of the faithful, and the hard work of our clergy and their parish teams in implementing the changing directives in our parishes.”