A Catholic parish in the central Philippine city of Tacloban held a “drive-in” Mass on Sunday, September 13, as cases of the new coronavirus disease continue to surge in the region.
As of Sunday evening, the Department of Health in the Eastern Visayas region reported 21 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases to 3,759, with 685 active cases.
“I was thinking about this for so long already,” said Father Kim Margallo, station pastor of the St. Josemaria Escriva Mission Station in Tacloban.
“Now is the right time because people are afraid to go to Mass for fear of close contact yet they are hungry for the Eucharist,” the priest told LiCAS.news.
During the Holy Mass, the faithful park their cars in an open space outside the church and join in the celebration with no physical contact.
“There is no need for QR code and other prerequisites because they don’t go out of their cars,” said Father Margallo.
During Communion, the faithful will only have to roll down their windows to receive the Eucharist from the ministers who go around with face masks and face shields.
On Sunday, at least 25 cars with families inside came to attend the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.
Those who do not have vehicles were allowed inside the church after undergoing the usual quarantine protocols, including temperature check, the filling up of contact tracing forms, among others.
Father Margallo said that with the strict quarantine measured being implemented in the Archdiocese of Palo, the Church has to come up with creative ways to continue its evangelization.
“People are clamoring for the physical attendance in the Mass, that’s why I thought of adopting an outdoor Mass,” said the priest.
He said that attending Mass, being the “highest form of prayer,” is an experience that requires “full and active presence.”
“The proper way to celebrate the Mass is to be physically present, not the online attendance because it is not the normal way of attending Mass,” said Father Margallo.
The Vatican has earlier issued a letter urging priests and bishops to return to the “normality of Christian life” if the local health situation permits.
Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, said “virtual” services cannot compare to, and cannot replace, personal participation in the liturgy.
The letter titled “Let us return to the Eucharist with joy!” was published with the approval of Pope Francis on September 3.
The letter said that “as soon as circumstances permit … it is necessary and urgent to return to the normality of Christian life, which has the church building as its home and the celebration of the liturgy.”
Father Margallo said the “drive-in” Mass in Tacloban will still be improved in the coming days, especially on how the vehicles will be parked to accommodate more churchgoers.
“If more people will come, then we’ll open another Mass schedule in the evening,” said the priest.
Father Chris Arthur Militante, spokesman of the Archdiocese of Palo, said the holding of “drive-in” Masses will depend on the set-up of parishes.
“Not all (parishes) have large parking spaces,” said the priest.
The Archdiocese of Palo has 86 parishes and mission stations, with seven vicariates divided into two districts.
Father Margallo, meanwhile, called on other religions and denominations to also adopt the “drive-in” religious celebrations “to keep the people guided and to nourish them spiritually.”