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Catholic churches prepare to reopen next week, look forward to in-person masses

A homily offering hope.

“This Sunday, the gospel is the gospel in which Jesus says, ‘I will not leave you, orphans,'” said Jerry Harrington with St. Andrew Catholic Church, just one of several SWFL Catholic churches where deep cleaning is underway.

“Anything we can to keep it as clean and sanitized as we can,” says Father Anthony Hewitt, pastor at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church.

Catholic churches in SWFL are readying for their reopening come Monday.

For nearly two months, pastors like Hewitt have streamed mass online.

“When people aren’t here, it is very different,” he said. “There’s that energy, that joy of having people celebrate with you.”

Now, there’s a new energy apparent at St. Francis Xavier.

Over at St. Andrew, they’ve marked off the pews to keep people six feet apart and at only 25% capacity.

“We are maintaining strict social distancing. So we’re seating folks every other pew so there is distance not only side to side but front to back,” Harrington said.

Masks at mass are a must now, but it’s what he says he’s most looking forward to. “Seeing faces, even if they’re half covered. Seeing everyone’s faces.”

While mass may not look like it used to, their message remains the same: “Even if we’re home in isolation, we’re not alone,” Harrington said.

While the diocese is reopening churches Monday, the bishop has left in place the dispensation of the obligation to attend mass.

His message — if you feel sick or don’t feel comfortable in even a small congregation, stay home and watch mass online.

Reporter:Taylor Petras
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