Some see a doubling of Mass attendees as allowing more of the faithful to experience Mass more frequently. For others, the continued limit on worshippers has left a nagging gap in the pews and in the offertory basket.

As of July 30, parishes in counties that are in phase 1 of Oregon’s reopening plan were allowed to have 50 people at Masses, instead of the previous limit of 25. Multnomah, Clackamas, Washington and Lincoln counties are in phase 1.

“For us, opening up to 50 instead of 25 meant opening more pews and having two ushers check in the parishioners instead of just one,” said Diana Wuertz, business manager at St. Anthony Parish in Forest Grove.

The Washington county parish is following the same plan as when they were allowing only 25 people. Members must call the office to sign up, have their temperatures checked before Mass and maintain six feet of social distancing. As in most churches, those not on the list are not allowed to enter. Sanitizer and wipes are provided for everyone and the faithful are told not to socialize after Mass. As there is no collection basket handed around, donations are placed in a basket when entering the church.

St. Anthony is not a large church, so according to guidelines established by Oregon’s reopening plan, the parish will not be able to accommodate more than 50 people until all restrictions are lifted.

St. Mary’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland didn’t move up to 50 people in attendance right away. The parish began welcoming the increased number of attendees the second weekend in August. Since Masses reopened to the public, the cathedral has been using the web application Eventbrite to allow people to sign up to attend Mass. The link to the Eventbrite page is published on the cathedral’s website.

The pews have been marked to accommodate the increased number of people, while maintaining social distancing. Msgr. Patrick Brennan said only six people attended the cathedral’s 9 a.m. Sunday Mass the first weekend in August.

For St. Augustine in Lincoln City, the increased limit of attendees hasn’t lifted spirits. The parish, which is in the heart of a coastal tourist town, relies heavily on tourist donations. The tourists are not coming back to Mass.

While we do have faithful, generous parishioners, we have always depended on the donations from summer visitors to supplement our income,” said Robin Reddish, office manager at St. Augustine.

The extra income given to the parish by visitors in the summer helps the parish get through the winter months.

“As summer is coming to an end and we have not had the pleasure of offering Mass to our visitors, our concerns for our future are mounting as we move toward a future of unknown financial difficulties in the months ahead.”

Parishes are required to have people sign up for Mass in advance, collecting their names and either a phone number or email address. The information must be kept on hand for 60 days so worshippers can be contacted in case it turns out an infected person was at Mass. Only in limited cases are pastors permitted to allow people to just show up to Mass without having registered beforehand. That means visitors from out of town largely won’t be in the pews.

The archdiocesan requirements for Masses was updated at the end of July when Phase 1 counties were allowed to accommodate up to 50 people indoors. The same number of attendees is allowed at outdoor Masses, though those are not envisioned. Phase 2 counties can have up to 100 people at indoor Masses. The formula, however, depends on the size of the church. One person is allowed for every 35 square feet of space.

As of the end of July, all Mass attendees over the age of 5 years old are also required to wear masks, with the exception of the priest and lector or cantor while they read or sing.

sarahw@catholicsentinel.org