Phoenix, Arizona: Letter from a Coronavirus Hotspot

Fr John Taylor mhm is assistant priest at St Mary’s parish in Phoenix, Arizona. Asked about the current situation amid the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in Arizona he writes:

Here in St. Mary’s parish (with two churches) Chandler around 20 miles south east of Phoenix, we resumed our normal 13 Sunday Masses,  between our two church,  and three of our normal weekday ones,   over a month ago: but with ‘physical’ distancing (our bishop has suggested that we humans are never ‘socially’ distant!) which means only 25% of the pews are permitted to be used. We asked parishioners to send us  large photos of their families and these we have attached to the pews which are not to be used ( as if the people whose photos are there are occupying them!). Everyone who attends Mass must wear a mask and their temperature is taken at the entrance. Communion in our Church is given only in the hand and is given also outside after the Masses and many watch our streamed Masses, as the bishop has dispensed everyone from the Sunday Obligation during the pandemic. After each Mass the pews are sanitized by a team of volunteers and people are recommended to carry a sanitizing gel and use it if they have touched anything in Church – but  we also have large bottles available for general use at the entrance : I don’t know how our Sacristans manage to get them!

Contrary to man people’s  expectations, the heat of summer  does not seem to have reduced the infections – as has happened  in the past with the annual Flu Virus. By midday the temperature now is around 40, but it gets cool by midnight and I get up before dawn to exercise my arthritic knees on my bike for about 30 minutes. I cycle North and back South so that the bright rising sun does not blind me!

 Some weeks ago our Pastor arranged for each of us four priests to get tested for the Covid-19 virus, as we were getting two seminarians staying with us in our Rectory. Thank God we all tested negative, as did our Bishop Thomas Olmsted for one of the priests living with him got the symptoms and had tested positive. He and the other priests self-isolated for 7 days.

 We take special precautions when visiting the sick and the bishop has told us not to enter a Covid-19 ward but give Absolution through the door and use the intercom to converse with the patient we would normally anoint.

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