On Nov. 5 and Nov. 6, Loyola hosted its first on-campus masses of the school year. In light of the coronavirus, the format of the Feast of All Saints masses had to be altered to comply with the guidelines for social distancing. Instead of one mass for the whole student body, it was broken up into eight, one per grade level per day, in order to accommodate all who wanted to safely come to campus. Each student could RSVP to bring one parent, and classes were not held over those two days.
Matthew Schaeffer, Director of Campus Ministry, coordinated the experience and said, “It took about a month to plan and record the music, come up with procedures for implementing COVID-19 protocols and organize rosters of students, parents and faculty/staff volunteers.”
All of the masses were hosted outdoors on Smith Field, where attendees were mandated to wear masks and socially distance. Designated paths helped participants safely enter and exit the field and receive Communion, and hand sanitizer was provided before and after Communion.
Rev. Gregory M. Goethals, SJ, ‘73, President of Loyola High School, commented, “As I always say, we consume the body and blood of Christ to become the body and blood of Christ, and the Eucharistic Liturgy is the binding experience that makes that happen. For this reason, it was so important to have these Masses, and to invite the community back to strengthen the bonds of this community.”
Before the pandemic, the masses were scheduled to take place in the FX building or the gym with school-wide attendance. Loyola faculty and staff were an integral part of allowing this mass to happen.
Goethals said, “ It was great to have students and parents back on campus. Some of them had not been at Loyola since March. I spoke at each Mass and I asked for how many was this mass the first time back on campus, and there were a number from each class who had not been here since March, and that was an important reason for us to have the Masses.”
The masses demonstrated how important face-to-face interaction, while remaining safe, is during these trying times.
Goethals added, “A campus like Loyola’s needs the presence of students, faculty, staff, parents and all other members of our community to give us the sense of the Spirit among us. While I think that is happening in these days of virtual learning, it is even more intense when people are here. Therefore, it did my heart and the hearts of all of us who were here for Mass good to have so many of our great students and families on campus.”
Schaeffer added, “There were over 60 members of the faculty and staff at the eight Masses. Many of them volunteered for multiple masses. They were very appreciative of the ability to gather together for this important event, and they were also grateful that there was a virtual option.”
Because of the social distancing procedures, many watched the masses from home. The events were live-streamed via YouTube so that they could be more accessible to those who could not or who felt reluctant to attend.