WARWICK — “The very first thing I want to say to you this morning is welcome back. Welcome home,” Bishop Thomas J. Tobin said during Mass for the Solemnity of Pentecost at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul, Providence, on Sunday, May 31. His welcoming message was shared to those gathered as public Mass resumed in the Diocese of Providence. In early March, the bishop dispensed the faithful from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass and Holy Days of obligation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It is indeed so good, so very good that we can gather together once again to worship, to praise the Lord, to receive Holy Eucharist, even though it's a little bit different ... we have some restrictions ... it's very good we can be together once again,” Bishop Tobin said in his homily.
The Mass was also live streamed, which many parishes throughout the diocese will continue to do for those that remain at home. Ahead of the opening Masses, Bishop Tobin shared a reminder on his Twitter page that churches were not required to open this past weekend, but will open only if, in the judgment of the pastor, it can be done safely. He strongly urged older parishioners and those with health issues to not attend Mass right now — for their safety and that of others.
“No one is obliged to attend Mass-until further notice,” he said on May 27.
Parish communities throughout Rhode Island worked hard to accommodate and plan for the safe return of the public with the help of guidelines issued by the diocese.
Parishioners of St. Paul Church in Cranston arrived to a safe and organized celebration of the faith at the 4:30 p.m. Mass on Saturday, May 30.
While people were still getting accustomed to new traffic patterns to receive Holy Communion, markers on the ground helped to lovingly encourage those to respect the distance of others.
The few dozen in attendance for the Saturday vigil all wore masks. They sat separated in roped-off pews and RSVP’d through the parish Flocknote program. Parishioners of all ages were in attendance at the first public Mass celebrated at the church since before the pandemic began in March.
Father Adam Young, pastor, welcomed his parish family back to their church home. He also reflected on words of St. Paul, reminding that if we live in the Holy Spirit, we will have love, peace and gentleness.
“Through our baptism and our confirmation we are given every access to the Holy Spirit who makes a home in our souls. We ask for that spirit to fall on us today and rekindle any faith that has faltered, whatever virtue has been dulled and we praise and thank God and the Holy Spirit for gathering us again together. Every day is Pentecost in the Church. Let’s begin to live like that.”
In reflecting on Pentecost Sunday weekend at St. Francis de Sales Church in North Kingstown, Father David Procaccini, pastor, shared that it was prayerful, peaceful and filled with joyful gratitude.
“Our first weekend of public Masses since the middle of March had just over 220 people in our church, and another 200 people joined us during our live streaming Mass,” he shared in a statement on the parish Facebook page. “The parish family of St. Francis de Sales Church in North Kingstown has been a vibrant Catholic Christian community for 60 years and nothing — not even COVID-19 — will keep us from serving the Lord with renewed faith, hope and love.”
Father Procaccini thanked the many volunteers who welcomed and helped to seat those who attended Holy Mass and then cleaned the church after each of the public celebrations of Mass.
“It was a testimony to the loyal commitment and loving devotion of our parishioners. I also want to thank the parish staff for their support and encouragement. Most of all, we thank the Holy Spirit who continues to be our source of renewal, strength, courage and new life.”