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Preparations still in the works as some churches postpone reopening

Last Updated May 23, 2020 at 8:56 am PDT

FILE - In this May 19, 2020 file photo, parishioners wear face masks as they file out of an in-person Mass at Christ the King Catholic Church in San Antonio. The Friday, May 22 release of new federal guidance on resuming in-person religious services during the pandemic comes ahead of a week that was already poised to rattle what’s been a weeks-long national balancing act – pitting the call to worship against the risk of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

While churches can reopen, some Catholic priests think it might be too soon

Both St. Patrick’s Parish in Vancouver, St. Mary's in Chilliwack won't open until next week

Mass and communion will look a little different during the pandemic

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — For the first time in two months, churches across the Lower Mainland can open up, but some Catholic priests say it’s too soon.

Fr. James Hughes with St. Patrick’s Parish in Vancouver says most churches won’t be opening even though Saturday marks the first day it’s permitted.

“There’s several things to prepare and we’re not to open if we’re not quite prepared,” he says.

Hughes also says priests need to be ready for the new way to offer communion, which involves wearing masks and physical distancing.

RELATED: Archdiocese of Vancouver issues church re-opening directive

He says St. Patrick’s aims to open next week like many other parishes, though, he admits a different system will be in place.

“The difficulty is we can’t allow walk-ins, obviously, because of the size of communities. Basically, for a lot of parish communities, they’re going to use a registration system to try to cycle through the numbers over weeks so that people, at least over a period of time, can come to mass at least once since Catholics in the Archdiocese have been deprived from attending mass, most of them for almost two months now.”

Until public health regulations change, no more than 50 people can attend mass at the time and everyone must distance themselves from others.

Fr. Mark McGuckin with St. Mary’s in Chilliwack says they’re also waiting until June 1 to open.

“It’s a big effort creating, crafting this new system. It’s kind of a new frontier here,” he says.

Communion will look a little different at St. Mary’s too.

Priests will also be in masks and communion will be given hand-to-hand with soapy water nearby.

McGuckin says the church fits about 400 people and will allow for distancing between pews.

He adds there will be at least three masses each Sunday.

Before opening, McGuckin acknowledges the church will need to be prepared for contact tracing in case someone were to get COVID-19.

“You got to go back and see where they were at, what mass, and who else was present.”

He says they’ll be taking names and contact info for those who attend mass.

McGuckin says there’s no obligation for the time being to attend, given the circumstances, but says “if you’re able too, we’ll be ready.”