Fr. Tim Furlow checks in Marci Bowen, a nurse, before Mass May 10 at St. Patrick Parish in North Portland. (Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel)
Fr. Tim Furlow checks in Marci Bowen, a nurse, before Mass May 10 at St. Patrick Parish in North Portland. (Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel)
" I miss it terribly. It’s my fuel for the week. " Marci Bowen as she entered St. Patrick Church for Mass May 10
Masses with the public attending have resumed at some Catholic parishes in western Oregon.

At St. Patrick Parish in Northwest Portland May 10, Father Tim Furlow stood at the door and checked in worshippers who had signed up ahead of time on the parish website. The first two names on the list for any Mass took charge of sanitizing the church after worship.

“I came for Mass. I miss it terribly,” said Marci Bowen as she waited in the small line. “It’s my fuel for the week.”

Bowen, a nurse who was wearing a floral pattern facemask, said the precautions put in place make her confident that the virus won’t spread at church.

At St. Patrick, the maximum 25 faithful sat in sites marked out to ensure a safe distance between people. As the archdiocesan guidelines set down, there was no holy water, and the hymnals were taken out of pews. Singing was kept to a minimum, and only those with masks could sing.

Several parishioners on the way in asked if masks are necessary to attend Mass. Father Furlow, respirator firmly in place, said masks are strongly recommended, but not required. Most did wear masks, with the exception of one young family.

Before Mass, the reader for the day fretted about whether worshippers would be able to hear her through a face covering. Father Furlow said it is important for anyone speaking to the assembly to be masked up to prevent the virus from sailing out over the people.

Amy Parent traveled across the Columbia River from her home in Camas, Washington, to attend Mass at St. Patrick.

“I have been missing Mass so much,” Parent said through a respirator.

John McAndrews, while staying at home on the weekends for the past two months, had begun a personal consecration to Mary. It ended on May 10 and he celebrated by attending Mass donning a blue surgical mask.

Not all parishes will hold public at Masses soon. Some larger churches need more time to make arrangements.

In addition, the archdiocesan guidelines include a provision for the health of priests. At Holy Cross Parish in North Portland, Father Mark Bachmeier has begun chemotherapy and radiation for colon cancer. His immune system is compromised.

Father Bachmeier, who is bilingual, believes he will have the stamina to livestream one Spanish and one English Mass each weekend, but his doctors say he should limit activity and avoid groups.

Despite the challenge, the priest has seen parishioners form community in new ways and care for one another. Homebound seniors, for example, get calls from volunteers, who also go shopping for the elders.

“We have started to become church in a new way, which is very encouraging for me,” said Father Bachmeier. In a recent homily, he noted that Catholicism remained vibrant in Ukraine even while the communist regime barred Masses for more than four decades.

“We become pretty resourceful,” he concluded.