COVID-19 has transformed nearly every aspect of life at Mercyhurst University this year, including what worship looks like on campus.
Mercyhurst is following the guidelines established by the Diocese of Erie for the celebration of Mass during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes wearing masks, following proper social distancing rules when inside the chapel, suspending the sign of peace and offering Mass live- streamed weekly.
Everyone in the Diocese has been excused from the obligation to attend Sunday and Holy Day Masses because of the pandemic, but those who want to attend in-person and feel comfortable doing so are now welcome in Christ the King Chapel.
Not only does church this year look different, but many traditions are being put on hold or changed in favor of safety. Communion is being done pew by pew rather than in a line, there is no communal singing of any kind being done, no sign of peace and no Holy Water inside the fonts.
“So far, I think students have done well in adapting to the situation and have respected the protocols that are in place,” said University Chaplain, Father Jim Piszker.
There will also be no Christmas Eve Mass this year, which in the past has had several hundred people in attendance.
The Mass of the Holy Spirit, which marks the spiritual opening of the school year and is a time-honored tradition, will be shown digitally. It will be held on Sept. 24 at 4 p.m. Only those directly involved in the service will be in the chapel, live streaming the service across campus.
The Mass of the Holy Spirit also coincides with Mercy Day. This year will be particularly import- ant as it is the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Sisters of Mercy in Erie.
Campus Ministry has continued to stay active throughout the pandemic. They have continued to hold meetings, pastoral counseling sessions and several other digital events.
This year is the first year of the Alumni version of the Mercy Emissary program. Despite the challenges, many groups on campus have still been able to preserve the Mercy mission, by continuing to do service work during this time. All this shows that worship is still a possibility and a priority.
“Obviously, the virus has challenged one of the central ideas of church and that is community,” said Piszker. “One of the things that I am emphasizing to students is to remain hopeful and appreciate that this is not a permanent situation.”
COVID-19 has brought many trials and tribulations, but worship remains important and sacred.