The Archdiocese of Santa Fe has canceled all Catholic Church activities in New Mexico due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Other churches are also closing, however, some are conducting business as usual — for the most part.
Fr. Clement Niggel, of Our Lady of Belen Catholic Church, said Archbishop John C. Wester is allowing all parishes in the state to perform Mass via Facebook Live.
Our Lady of Belen is holding to its normal Mass schedule of 5 p.m. on Saturday, and 8 and 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. on Sunday, and daily Masses at 7 a.m.
Niggel said all who wish to view the live Masses should friend him on Facebook.
“During this time of crisis, we need God the most,” Niggel said. “He’s the only one who can calm our fears, and people need access. If they can’t come to Mass, I’ll bring Mass to them.”
While Catholic Mass can be viewed on television and on the internet, Niggel says he hopes having local priests offer Mass to their congregation will bring them peace.
He said while some are upset Catholic Masses have been canceled, many are appreciative that he’ll be offering Mass on the social media platform.
The church will continue to be open every day, he said, for parishioners.
Fr. Niggel was hoping to get permission from the archbishop to offer “drive-thru” communion to the congregation after each Mass, but the request was denied. However, Catholic Churches will continue to have confessions.
The Archdiocese of Santa Fe asks that its parishes and other entities:
• Suspend public celebrations of Mass. Churches may remain open for individual prayer.
Individual confessions and consultations need not be suspended.
• Suspend/postpone all other non-essential meetings and group devotions such as communal penitential services, stations of the cross, CCD, youth and adult education, etc.
• Postpone or cancel if possible other rites such as baptisms, quinceañeras, weddings, funerals, etc. If held due to extraordinary circumstances, limit attendance to 20-30 persons and perform the rite without Mass.
• Eucharistic adoration may continue, but limit the number at any one time according to the size of the space utilized.
Archbishop Wester dispenses RCIA candidates from the first and second scrutinies. The third scrutiny, which cannot be dispensed, may be accomplished outside of Mass according to the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, paras. 34.2 and 331.
• Validations of marriages in preparation for reception into the Church may continue without Mass and with minimal attendance.
• Anointing of the seriously sick and dying may be conducted by priests, who should be assiduous in pre/post hygienic procedures and consider replacing their oil stocks after the anointing.
At a time of confusion over the COVID-19 pandemic, Niggel reminds the faithful that God is good and to remain calm.
“We want to make sure you check on your family members and help your neighbors,” Niggel said. “First and foremost, pray, pray, pray because God is real. Be prudent and vigilant and leave worry to the devil.”
Niggel says while it’s important to take care of your spiritual needs, it’s also important to take care of physical needs, and suggests to make sure you have your medication and food, update your will and write down passwords.
Peralta Memorial United Methodist Church is one that is continuing to offer its regularly scheduled Sunday services, including its contemporary music worship service at 8:30 a.m. and the traditional music worship service at 11 a.m.
Pastor Daniel Armstrong said Monday the church is still holding its worship services, but are continuing to offer live-streaming on its YouTube channel.
“We are encouraging those who are sick and who are vulnerable to stay home and view it from home,” Armstrong said. “This weekend, we cut out the greeting time, and had hand sanitizer available for those who attended.”
Armstrong said between the two services this weekend, about 170 people attended — about 20 to 30 people less who regularly attend church services.
“I talked to some, and they were nervous,” the pastor said. “We’ve been sanitizing the church … and depending on what comes up, we’ll adapt. It’s OK to stay home; we’ll still get the message out.”
In fact, the church is still continuing its food pantry services, however instead of clients going in to pick up food, volunteers are giving boxes to them in their vehicles.
Pastor David Maestas at Calvary Chapel New Harvest in Los Lunas says they have decided Tuesday to close its doors, making sure the coronovirus isn’t spread through the church’s congregation.
“We’re rounding up everything right now, getting everything cleaned, and we’ll be closed for the next 15 days and monitor it,” Maestas said.
All services, including at 7 p.m. Wednesday, and 9 and 11 a.m. Sundays, will be livestreamed on the church’s Facebook and Instagram pages, and they will continue the 5:30 p.m. radio broadcast on Fridays.
“The president asked for everyone to get behind this, and we’re going to get behind this and come out on the other side,” he said. “Our hearts are broken here but if this could save lives, I’m in agreement.”
While he knows people are looking for a place to go to worship, Maestas said they will be shooting out a lot more encouraging messages on a daily basis online.
“In reality, people are afraid, and we’re going to do everything we can to calm fears,” the pastor said. “We want to remain flexible, because it all could change tomorrow. We hope we will be able to bring hope to the people and be encouraging. We have to remain faithful and flexible.”
(Editor’s note: Contact your church for information on changes to services.)
Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.