Cars filled the upper lots of St. Mary Mokena this past weekend as many parishioners drove in to experience Mass for the first time in three months. The occasion marked an official end to the Covid-19 public Mass shutdowns at St. Mary, although every precaution was taken to ensure a safe and hygienic environment.
In accordance with the Diocese of Joliet’s Covid-19 guidelines and the parish’s reopening plan, attendees were asked to remain in their cars and tune into 97.7 FM, where they could listen to the Mass while watching it being celebrated in the church’s main entrance, where an altar was set up.
The outdoor, drive-in Mass format was chosen to allow an unlimited number of attendees. On June 7th, the parish had held a public Mass inside the church but was required to maintain strict admittance restrictions to follow social distancing measures. Moving the Mass outside allowed the parish to safely welcome everyone.
“This weekend’s opening masses were so joyful and glorious,” said Father Dindo Billote, pastor of St. Mary Mokena. “The people were so grateful and happy to attend a live Mass again…When I celebrated the mass this weekend I could feel the Lord Jesus saying, ‘well done!'”
During Communion, volunteer Eucharistic Ministers in face coverings brought the Blessed Sacrament to each attendee. To receive Communion, people exited their cars in an orderly fashion, listening to the instructions of the ushers and ministers who provided hand sanitizer for disinfection.
This team of volunteers was the foundation for being able to safely hold the Masses. Parishioners volunteered as ushers, greeters, and Eucharistic Ministers, and each role was critical.
“Our parishioners really rose to the call, and we had an appropriate number of volunteers at each Mass,” reported Ted Kopczynski, one of the volunteer coordinators. “A lot of planning went into holding the three Masses, with a lot of attention to detail. Bob Cornejo, Bob Prskalo, Steve Warunek and Zina Habib did a great job of planning the Mass and ensuring there were no issues or problems at all three Masses.”
The reinstitution of public Mass coincided with the Feast of Corpus Christi, or the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ. While the parish normally holds a Corpus Christi Procession to the old St. Mary Church on Wolf Road, this year the Blessed Sacrament was processed around the parking lot. “It brought me to tears seeing the people come out of their cars, young and old, and kneel down on the hard pavement when Jesus passed by!” exclaimed Father Dindo.
Moving forward, St. Mary has decided that it will be able to safely accommodate multiple indoor Masses. More information about that will come soon.