OC Catholic churches return to some indoor Masses

SEAL BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- All 57 Catholic churches in Orange County returned to indoor Masses this week after the state gave places of worship the go-ahead. It's a moment that brought Father John Shimotsu to tears.

"It's very important because our Lord is in there. The tabernacle and it's where people pray and have baptisms and weddings, funerals. It's very important to the people," Shimotsu said.

He's one of the priests at St. Anne's Church in Seal Beach, where they quickly brought back protocols that were in place earlier this summer when churches were allowed to reopen for a short time. Although Monsignor Mike Heher knows some of his parishioners were anxious to get inside, he wants to make sure everyone is safe.

"This is the time especially to reinforce the fact that nobody gets to make up their own rules. We have to follow the rules set by the government," said Heher.
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The guidelines allow for places of worship to reopen indoors with modifications, including capacity limited to 25% or 100 people, whichever is fewer. That doesn't really help larger churches like Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove, which can seat up to 2,200 people at once. Since they're limited, they're keeping masses completely outside for now.

At St. Anne's, sanitizer is sprayed on hands before people enter and they're all spaced out on the pews. Everyone is asked to wear a mask, communion is brought to people where they're seated, there's no shaking hands, no holy water to dip fingers in and no congregational singing.

"It's a big difference that we don't sing anything. There's a cantor who sings and we don't join in. Even in the rosary, we would sing at the end of each decade. We haven't done that in months," said parishioner Gretchen Dinger.

Still, they're just glad to be together, inside or out.

"We're a community and we pray together, we worship together, we socialize together and a lot of that's curtailed," said parishioner Joanie Smith.

Catholic churches in Orange County will not be doing their larger weekend services inside because of the capacity issue. So right now only weekday Mass is indoors, along with weddings, funerals and baptisms, as long as they meet the guidelines.

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