Walking into Holy Ghost Church in downtown Denver on Saturday morning, Joseph Sandoval said he’s attended services here for at least 20 years. Since social distancing mandates started in March, Sandoval has been able to attend smaller activities like the rosary and confession, but he was most hungry for the Mass.
“It’s been difficult quite frankly not being able to get to Mass, but I’ve been making do,” he said.
It’s been nearly two months since Catholics have been able to attend Mass because of the new coronavirus, and many in Denver were excited to return to church over the weekend because, they say, worshiping from home just isn’t the same.
Sandoval has watched Mass on TV by himself.
“It's a bit more difficult to do in front of a TV or in front of a computer as opposed to being in front of the tabernacle,” Sandoval said. “There is just no substitute for that.”
Mary Pettifor, who lives in Littleton, said she’s enjoyed watching services from all over the world online over the last few weeks. But she agreed with Sandoval and said it’s like a shadow of the real service.
“This is the real thing. This is our Mass. This is our Lord. Body, blood, soul and divinity,” she said. “And if you compare that to something online, that’s nothing.”
She used a scarf to cover her nose and mouth and said she isn’t worried about getting sick with the virus.
“What will be will be,” she said. “If you’re a Catholic and if you're in the state of grace then you have to be ready to die anyway.”
Before the pandemic hit, more than 210,000 people attended Catholic Mass in Colorado, according to Denver’s Archdiocese. Not all were able to return to Mass over the weekend like Pettifor and Sandoval, since some Catholic churches in metro Denver aren't offering services yet.
Veronica Ambuul, spokeswoman of the Diocese of Colorado Springs, said churches haven't reopened there, either, and the roll-out will vary across the region.
“A church that can seat 1000 people, it’s going to look different than at a church that can seat 200,” she said. She added the Bishop is making sure each church is prepared.
“The idea is that it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. He’s been working very closely with each pastor to determine the best specific practices for each parish.”
A larger church might be able to rotate in congregants for services on different days or different times. Or cut traditions like taking the wafer, passing wine or welcoming neighbors.
In Denver, the Archdiocese has put strict guidelines on services. While the details vary church to church, congregants are required to wear masks and practice social distancing. Schedules have changed, too. Some churches have increased how often they host Mass and ask for people to sign up ahead of time to attend. The Archdiocese says people aged 65 and older should stay home, too.
But most of the people who trickled out of Holy Ghost Church on Saturday morning were older and appeared to be part of that group.
“Well I don’t think of myself that way but I guess I am,” Nancy Crovelli of Lakewood said with a laugh. “But it doesn’t matter. I come anyway. I don’t want to miss. I’ve had some things in my life that are almost impossible to get through without.”
She said people followed the new rules during the service.
“They had it all marked off — the pews — so that you were apart and then going up to communion was the same way,” Crovelli said.
No matter the changes, she said she’s happy to be back at church finally and plans to attend services as often as she can.
“Oh my gosh, I couldn’t go through my life without it,” Crovelli said.
Other churches in Colorado, like the Episcopal church, and the Methodists say they’re waiting until at least the end of May, for more data, before they will reopen their weekend services.