HILLSBOROUGH, NJ - Father John, Rozembajgier, pastor of Mary Mother of God parish, with an assist from Father Alex Carles, has devised a novel approach to administering communion while being respectful of social distancing and parishioners' well-being.
The pastor of Mary Mother of God Church has adapted to the restrictive nature of social distancing amidst the coronavirus pandemic with drive-through tents at the entrance and exit driveways of the church on.South Triangle Road, which permits parishioners to receive Holy Communion weekdays and weekends - without having to leave their vehicles - following the conclusion of mass which is celebrated inside the church.
The schedule for Live Stream masses this weekend is Saturday, 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.; Sunday, 10:30 a.m; and Memorial Day Mass 9 a.m. before resuming the daily mass schedule, 8:30 a.m.
Since parishioners cannot come inside the church during the pandemic to worship and receive Communion, Father John has come up with a simple alternative, which he revealed at the conclusion of the Live Stream mass last Sunday.
Diocese of Metuchen Bishop James F. Checchio gave his blessing for outdoor Communion after Gov. Phil Murphy eased back on his executive order on crowd size and social gatherings.
Those wishing to receive Communion must arrive 30 minutes before the start of the 8:30 a.m. mass, park their cars, and watch mass on the I-Pads, laptops or IPhone. At the conclusion of the mass, drivers are directed by parking attendants to form a line.
The two priests come outdoors with their chalices, and head over to the 20x20 tents erected at the entrance/exit driveways where they distribute the Holy Eucharist one car at a time. Both priests wear masks, as do those inside the cars. The priests place the host in the hands of the communicants, who place the host in their mouths, and drive off. The priests use hand sanitizer in between each act of Communion.
Communicants are also able to drop off their weekly offerings to an usher assisting the priests beneath the tents.
"This is not a protocol we were trained for in the seminary, that's for sure," said Father John, who has been at the church since November, 2018.
"We want to create an atmosphere as best we can for people to feel safe, secure and to continue to maintain a level of reverence and respect," Father John added.
Between 40-60 cars have been counted during the week, but far more are expected on Sunday.
"We've been doing this for a few days now and it's been exceptional," Father John said. "Our primary concern is safety and our purpose is to get the Holy Sacrament out there."
The same outdoor protocol is being followed on Saturdays between 2:30-3:30 p.m. for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Father John and Father Alex are seated in chairs beneath the tents to hear individual's confessions after which hey are given penance and drive off. Masks must be worn and social distancing will be observed.
The parish is also hosting an ongoing fund-raiser online at www.studioatthehill.com, a family show that features street magic, ventriloquism, and special guests hosted by a parishioner, Johnny Lombardi, who performs as “Gemini.”
"These are difficult times as we remain quarantined in our homes. All donations will go to residents and families in need with the help of Mary, Mother of God Church. We thank you for your support, and we hope you enjoy our free children’s learning show that features faith and fun for the whole family," Father John said in an email to parishioners.
"Finally, I know many of you miss stopping in for a few private moments with Our Lord. The Chapel will be open for private prayer from 10 a..m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The Chapel will be closed on Memorial Day. We are limited to 10 people at a time, and we do require you to wear a mask while you are in the Chapel or anywhere on the Church campus."
"I know these steps are still restrictive but in my heart I hope these are temporary, and we will soon be progressing to more open gatherings which will help us all move toward," Father John said.