COVID-19 shut down religious gatherings, but only temporarily

When the pandemic hit gatherings came to a halt, including religious gatherings.

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee suspended services from March 16 to May 31 of last year, something Kim Mandelkow, the Director for the Office of Worship with the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, said was unprecedented.

"At the Archdiocese, we just kept saying, we have to sacrifice this right now. This is not a safe plan, this is not a safe idea," said Kim Mandelkow, director for the Office of Worship with the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. 

Kim Mandelkow

Kim Mandelkow

When the parishes reopened there were new safety measures in place. People were strongly encouraged to wear masks, sanitize their hands instead of using Holy Water and social distancing had to be maintained throughout the service.

In terms of the worship itself, "We suspended communion from the cup. So it was one form only which was the form of the body or the consecrated bread," Mandelkow said.

Some parishes started live streaming services for parishioners who did not feel comfortable leaving their homes.

"They set up cameras, did a lot of Facebook lives, YouTube channels, streaming through the websites. Lots of people connected through the live stream feed," said Mandelkow.

The addition of this technology is something Mandelkow said parishes are considering keeping when the pandemic ends. Deep cleaning protocols in place between services will also likely stay.

As Easter gets closer, Mandelkow said the Archdiocese is preparing for an influx of people to attend services. The Archdiocese will follow the same protocol they did for Christmas services.

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Some parishes will have simultaneous masses inside the worship space, parish hall, and gymnasium to ensure proper social distancing. Mandelkow said the Archdiocese is hopeful that people’s faith has strengthened during this time and the church can return to full capacity soon.

"Our faith tells us that our journey doesn’t stop at the cross that it continues through the cross and to the open tomb at Easter and the resurrection, so as we approach Easter I’m filled with hope. More people are getting vaccinated, the numbers in the country continue to decline, here in Wisconsin they continue to decline and I’m really looking forward to resuming in a full capacity. We realize it might not be in April or May but I am looking forward to a full church again," said Mandelkow. 

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