St. John the Evangelist opens church for weekend masses


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Barbara Yanko of Viera receives the Holy Eucharist from the Rev. John Britto Antony during Holy Communion at the 9 a.m. Mass on Sunday, May 31 at St. John the Evangelist Church in Viera.

Ernest Arico

For the first time since the March 19 order from the Diocese of Orlando, state and county officials to close all churches because of the coronavirus pandemic, St. John the Evangelist Catholic Community in Viera opened its door for weekend Masses on May 30 and 31.

“I am so happy to see all of your today, especially on this day – the Solemnity of Pentecost, the birthday of the church,” said the Rev. John Britto Antony prior to the start of Sunday’s 9 a.m. Mass. “I want you to know that your safety and health are paramount. We have taken all precautionary measures to ensure our facilities are sanitized and clean after every Mass.”

Under the new safety guidelines, Antony said only 300 people can attend a weekend Mass in the church. The church’s maximum occupancy is 1,237. At Sunday’s 9 a.m. Mass, 143 parishioners came to worship.

According to the Orlando diocese, there are a few things to keep in mind when you return to worship. For example, general dispensation from attending the weekend Masses is still in place, which means you are not obligated to come to Mass. It will remain in effect until officials feel it is safe for all to return. If you experience a cough, fever, and/or cold-like symptoms, you are asked to stay at home.

If you choose to remain at home, Antony said he strongly encourages parishioners to participate in the church’s live streaming Mass at 11 a.m. every Sunday until the obligation is removed. The website at www.stjohnviera.org.
“Your return to church brings us great joy,” Antony said. “Words simply cannot express our delight.”

Other recommended cautionary church protocols and guidelines include:

Wearing a face mask.

Bringing with you a personal hand sanitizer.

Using the main doors only to enter the church. The side doors will
remain closed for now.

The holy water font and stoups are empty for health reasons.

Be seated in the pews that are open. We have blocked off every
other pew with blue painter's tape to ensure six-foot distancing. Families are encouraged to sit together.

Gifts will not be brought up in procession by parishioners.

Collection baskets will not be passed around. For your offertory please use the baskets located in the rear of the church as you enter/exit.

When you pray the Lord's Prayer, you are not required to hold hands.

Please offer “The Sign of Peace” with a bow and/or a verbal greeting.

Communion on the hand is preferred. If you would like to receive
Communion on the tongue, please wait until all others have finished receiving in the hand and come directly to the priest. This will assist with sanitizing concerns.

Reception from the cups (that contains wine which symbolizes the blood of Christ) is suspended until further notice.

Bulletins will not be distributed for now. A limited number will be
available in the narthex.

No liturgical aids such as books or cards will be placed in the pews.

After the Mass, please do not linger in the narthex or near the doors.

“I am sorry for the inconvenient imposition of so many restrictions to our normal way of worship,” Antony added. “On a positive note, let us remain thankful that we are finally allowed to come together to celebrate the Mass and receive the Holy Eucharist. It's such a joy to see you in the pews.”

The Viera family of Jason Kling and his wife Ann, and their five children, attended the 9 a.m. Mass. All of them were wearing face mask except for the youngest child, Grace, who is 2 years old and not obligated to wear a mask.

“We feel safe coming to church,” Jason Kling said. “We are encouraged things are getting better. “We want to receive the Eucharist.”

Antony said parishioners attending Mass are highly encouraged to wear a mask out of consideration for others.
“Please consider it an act of charity rather than an infringement of your
rights,” he said.

Dr. Brendan Prendergast, a radiation oncology specialist in Viera, and his wife and two children, also attended the Mass. “We’re comfortable wearing our mask and keeping our social distancing in church,” he said.

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