St. Rose Parish offered its first Mass during the COVID-19 pandemic. Fr. Matt Libra, pastor, compared the lessened number with what was standard before the pandemic closed churches. Then, 30 to 50 parishioners typically attended daily Mass at the parish with hundreds at the Sunday Masses. (Kristen Hannum/Catholic Sentinel)
St. Rose Parish offered its first Mass during the COVID-19 pandemic. Fr. Matt Libra, pastor, compared the lessened number with what was standard before the pandemic closed churches. Then, 30 to 50 parishioners typically attended daily Mass at the parish with hundreds at the Sunday Masses. (Kristen Hannum/Catholic Sentinel)
On Mother’s Day morning, Megan Schuver stood with a clipboard on the stoop by the side entrance to St. Rose Church in Northeast Portland.

She was checking off the 20 or so worshippers who had been invited to attend Mass in person at the church that morning, making sure they were on the list and getting phone numbers in case of the worst — the need for contact tracking in case one of the worshippers tested positive for COVID-19.

As people arrived, on their own, with their spouse or as a family, Schuver explained the rules. They had to keep their face masks on except for when they took Communion. They shouldn’t touch surfaces. There was assigned seating, with each person about 10 feet or more from anyone else. The bathroom would only be unlocked for emergencies.

St. Rose was one of dozens of parishes in the archdiocese to reopen for public Masses (albeit on a very limited scale) on Mother’s Day.

“It gives me joy to see you, even though you have to have your faces covered,” Father Libra told his Mother’s Day flock.

The news that St. Rose would offer a public Mass on Mother’s Day appeared on the parish’s Facebook page last week, after Archbishop Alexander Sample told pastors they could reopen if they met his guidelines — beginning with those rules that Schuver was in charge of.

St. Rose parishioners were invited to sign up if they wished to attend.

The parish staff called to invite 20 of those who responded. People not on the list would not be admitted.

Pre-pandemic, bustling St. Rose Parish, with its school, its upbeat priest, Father Matt Libra, and myriad ministries, would typically welcome 30 to 50 worshipers at its daily Masses. Weekend Masses would see 600 or so.

On Mother’s Day, there were only about 15.

While every parishioner there gratefully took Communion (with the exception of young Milo Zogas, who hasn’t not yet made his first Communion), there were a few glitches.

Schuver had not received the thermometer that the parish had ordered for taking congregants’ temperatures. The shipment had been delayed. One parishioner evidently despaired of being able to breathe through his face mask and wore it so that it covered only his mouth.

Archbishop Sample requested that the most vulnerable Catholics stay home, but the St. Rose Mass-goers included a number of seniors.

The relief people felt in receiving Communion, however, was visible.

Parishioners and the staff are most likely looking forward to months of this kind of Mass, as it seems unlikely that Gov. Kate Brown will lift limits on large-group gatherings before autumn or beyond.

Father Libra will continue recording a Mass every Saturday evening that will be livestreamed to the majority of parishioners.

In his May 10 homily, Father Libra said that we all have reason to be feeling any number of strong emotions, including sadness, confusion and anger.

That means, he noted, that this even more than most times is a time to look to Jesus. “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” he reminded, quoting the Gospel reading (JN 14-1-12).

Father Libra also shared stories about the mothers in his life, women who helped shape his faith. One of his grandmothers arranged her furniture in a way that puzzled him until he realized that she’d stationed her couch to provide a barrier around herself, a special space for her to pray the rosary. His other grandmother loved to cook and brought the family together over meals that were always inhaled.

It wasn’t until he was a man that he thought about the hours she spent cooking for children who ate too quickly. And it wasn’t until her funeral that he learned about a Thanksgiving dinner she cooked twice. A family in the community had lost their 20-year-old son, and she cooked an entire Thanksgiving dinner for them — and then cooked her own family’s dinner. She hadn’t spoken to anyone about what she’d done.

Father Libra thanked the mothers in attendance, for their love and faith.

After the Mass, there was a slight pause as people left, careful not to crowd one another. The church’s front doors were opened, providing a second exit.

John Zogas, who attended with his wife, Lindsay, and sons, Oliver and Milo, admitted that the Mass had not felt like a return to normal.

“But maybe a first step toward the new normal,” said Lindsay.