At Holy Redeemer Parish in North Portland March 15, the church bells rang their usual summons the morning of March 15. But the 8 a.m. Mass had a little more than 50% of the usual attendance. The cause: warnings about the coronavirus.

Holy Redeemer’s large baptismal font, usually flowing and full, was drained. The hymnals were gone, taken out because they might pass along the virus. No one brought up the gifts and the assembly skipped the sign of peace. Instead of passing a collection basket, worshippers dropped off donations in the back of church.

“A lot of this feels strange to us, but we want to be careful not to spread the virus,” said Holy Cross Father Pat Neary, the pastor.

In his homily, Father Neary discussed the need to use technology to reach out to people in this time of social distancing. What people thirst for the most is connection, the priest said.

St. Joseph Parish in Salem intended to separate the congregation at each Mass into the church and its school gym. But being the second largest parish in the archdiocese, leaders decided the parish was not prepared to do everything necessary in just a few days. And so the leaders canceled weekend Masses for March 14 – 15.

“To be really honest, it is excruciatingly painful personally for me to make this decision, but I must admit the fact that the parish is far from being prepared for all of this, not to mention the very little time to comply with the directives,” wrote Father Paolo Dayto, parochial vicar at St. Joseph, on the parish’s Facebook page. “It truly breaks my heart. But, at the moment, your greater good, well-being, safety and welfare must be of my utmost priority more than anything else.”

Father Dayto said Masses would continue under the original plan the following week, the parish having time to gather volunteers and resources needed to implement the parish’s Mass plan.

Across western Oregon, volunteers at parish St. Vincent de Paul pantries took measures to prevent spread of the virus. At Holy Redeemer, the workers met guests outside and asked about symptoms. Both volunteers and guests sanitized hands and volunteers did all the grabbing of food.

Blanchet House, a feeding site in Old Town, has limited its dining room to 30 diners at a time and is wiping down surfaces with bleach after each seating.



— Ed Langlois, Sarah Wolf