Covid-weary but with hearts glad, Macau parishioners return to churches

Fr Leonard E Dollentas

Last Sunday, August 7, was a joyful day for churches across Macau as the faithful were able to join Sunday masses after long days of church closure and home isolation of citizens.

In mid-June, Macau was hit by a COVID-19 outbreak, the worst Macau has encountered since January 2020. After a month-and-a-half long outbreak, around 1,800 infections were reported. The last few days have shown signs of success and recovery from the pandemic dangers after the newest infection outbreak. This was evident by the fact that after finding no Covid-19 cases for nine straight days, the government aims at returning the city to normalcy. From August 2 onwards, the government has permitted dining-in at restaurants, with some health protocols still observed.

At St. Lawrence parish, parishioners were grateful and happy to be back inside their historic and beautiful church, as seen in the picture in this article. A parish priest in another parish said he did not expect to have a big crowd at all Masses, but people are joyful to be back inside. “I’m very excited to see their happy faces. Some faces I haven’t seen since mid of June. So, for all the churches in Macau, I’m very happy for this day, this weekend,” said the Catholic priest.

To assure complete protection from any further cases of infections, churches still maintain health protocol requirements for the parishioners upon entering to attend services. The Catholic Diocese of Macau in its guidelines says: “Due to the large number of people attending Sunday and solemn Masses in church, the Diocese announces that, in line with government guidelines, the faithful are requested to present a negative nucleic acid test result valid within three days before entering the churches for Sunday and solemn Masses during this stabilization period. For those who attend weekday Masses only, no nucleic acid test result is required before entering the churches.”  For some churchgoers, like Amelia and her mother, joy and gladness were in their hearts, especially for her mother, a daily church attendee, “It was still scary to come out after the outbreak, but I trust God and, of course, our government. It was very hard to come so today, but I was happy. It was like coming back home,” Amelia said.

Others were happy to be just able to visit and drop by the church at least during weekdays, like Elizabeth Mou and her husband. Still, it was a unique moment for the couple. Elizabeth was recently baptized, and her husband is attending a preparation class for baptism.  “As I am newly baptized, I am always excited to receive the body of our Lord. It does make a difference to come personally to the church, to be able to receive the Eucharist, and it is very nourishing to the spiritual life,” declared Elizabeth. After Sunday Mass, parishioners felt they were spirited with a new sense of hope after worshiping God together. “We survived the long days of isolation because of our faith; we had prayers, we had time to read the Bible. In my family, we pray together. It just made our family stronger during the pandemic, even though not all my children are Catholics,” an elderly woman declared, as she headed home with a happy grin.

(Photo: Dominique Chua)