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Looser coronavirus restrictions allow religious masses in small numbers

A socially distanced small congregation is allowed under the governor’s extended stay-at-home order.

NEW ORLEANS — They’ve been virtual, recorded and streamed. Now, thanks to loosening restrictions, church services are looking and sounding a little more like we once knew them. 

“It’s been great at least having a few people in church,” said Fr. Tim Hedrick at St. Catherine of Siena in Metairie.

Weekly masses are back inside church, but no more than ten people for any service.

“We normally have 1,000 people in church so just having a handful of people is better than nothing and preaching to an empty pew and just live streaming it,” said Fr. Hedrick.

To be one of the lucky few, Fr. Hedrick said parishioners register online. Those who make registration are then met with a list of guidelines. Pews are even sectioned off.

“It’s been great just to see people again. Just, obviously maintaining socially distancing,” said Fr. Hedrick. 

A socially distanced small congregation is allowed under the governor’s extended stay-at-home order.

“It was very difficult for me to celebrate a mass without the congregations being there,” said Fr. John Tran of Mary, Queen of Peace in Mandeville.

Those mini masses are appealing to the masses so much, Fr. Tran moved them outside to accommodate more people. 

“We are very fortunate to have a pavilion, so we are able to accommodate 97 parishioners,” said Fr. Tran. 

Outside parishioners must also follow guidelines and register ahead of time. 

“As soon as we put it out, in a matter of an hour or two hours it’s filled,” said Fr. Tran. 

Father Hendrick is taking services outside as well, putting a stage in the parking lot for three services this Mother’s Day Weekend. 

“We’re going to set up some markers in the yard so that people know where the six-foot isles are. We’ll have chairs or they can bring their own comfortable chair if they want,” said Fr. Hedrick.

While changes are once again happening, both church leaders say one thing will always remain the same.  

“It’s important to stay connected to God because God gives us hope,” said Fr. Hedrick.

“Many parishioners, the one thing yearned for was to be able to return to mass and to be able to be with other parishioners as well,” said Fr. Tran. 

Inside services with that ten-person limit are allowable at any church. When it comes to those outside services, the city of New Orleans is still prohibiting those types of gatherings. 

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