The Diocese of Orlando has allowed its churches – including St. John the Evangelist Catholic Community in Viera – to re-open its doors and resume all things normal. Full services resumed at St. John on Pentecost Sunday, May 23.
A little over a year ago – March 19, 2020 – the Diocese of Orlando closed all its churches because of the COVID-19 pandemic. No church services were allowed, and parishioners watched Mass through video streaming on web sites.
The Rev. John Britto Antony, pastor of St. John, said it was a time of unspeakable sadness for the church.
“Our worship, family lives, work, school learning, social interactions, travel and leisure, and health practices were all impacted and turned completely upside down,” he said. “During these unprecedented times of mandatory physical distancing, the church around the world maintained its sense of community by all manner of media, attending the Mass through Zoom, TV, church websites, and other
internet platforms. Sitting in the comfort of our homes, some of us
maintained a prayerful and reverent demeanor while participating in the Mass, while others chose a more casual approach and joined in at their convenience.”
Father Antony said the reason for re-opening services and ministries is because many parishioners have received the COVID-19 vaccines.
“We feel it safe enough to return to church, however, as per the Most Rev. John Noonan's recommendation, we encourage you to continue to wear a mask while in the church.”
Since the Diocese of Orlando is allowing its churches to reopen and ministries to resume, Father Antony said it was time for his parishioners to wean themselves from the habit of simply watching the Mass via video streaming and come back to Mass every Sunday.
“Participation in the communal celebration of the Sunday Eucharist is a testimony of belonging and of being faithful to Christ and to his Church,” he said. “The faithful give witness by this to their communion in faith and charity. Together they testify to God's holiness and their hope of salvation. They strengthen one another under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Why is it important to return to church for the Mass?
“You are Catholic. Your physical presence gives testimony to belonging and being faithful to Christ and to his Church,” Father Antony said. “Your presence is a testimony to others of God's importance in your life
and your dependence upon his grace for our salvation. Your presence helps strengthen others. We miss you, and each of you is an integral part of our parish.”
However, Father Antony said that if a parishioner’s health is fragile, if they are ill, homebound or bedridden, notify the church office and let us know your situation.
“We will be most happy to schedule a visit from one of our ministers to the sick to offer the Eucharist in your home to fortify you with its nourishment,” he said. “No Catholic in a state of grace should ever be deprived of the Eucharist. Additionally, should you need anointing, please do not hesitate to call us. We will be honored to visit with you and pray for you.”