St. Andrew parishioner Paul Riek delivers the reading during the bilingual livestreamed Mass on Holy Thursday. A sense of loneliness “is increased by seeing the empty church during the Mass,” said Diana Ruiz, parish receptionist and Hispanic ministry coordinator at St. Andrew. But at the same time, “we are reinforcing a sense of community even in the absence of the ability to gather together.” (Katie Scott/Catholic Sentinel)
St. Andrew parishioner Paul Riek delivers the reading during the bilingual livestreamed Mass on Holy Thursday. A sense of loneliness “is increased by seeing the empty church during the Mass,” said Diana Ruiz, parish receptionist and Hispanic ministry coordinator at St. Andrew. But at the same time, “we are reinforcing a sense of community even in the absence of the ability to gather together.” (Katie Scott/Catholic Sentinel)
Holy Thursday is one of the most holy days in the life of church. It’s the day Jesus instituted the Eucharist, turning wine and bread into his real presence. For nearly all Catholic laity in the Portland Archdiocese this year, there was a painful, gaping hole — the lack of the Eucharist itself and of their fellow parishioners, their spiritual families.

In a poignant scene that was replicated in some form within many parishes throughout the archdiocese, St. Andrew Parish in Northeast Portland livestreamed a bilingual Mass with a mere handful of people. Along with Father David Zegar, pastor, there were two musicians, a reader and a videographer. All remained at least 6 feet apart at all times. The videographer wore a facemask, as did the lector before he delivered the readings.

The coronavirus reminds us of “how often in our daily lives we take for granted so much,” said Father Zegar during the homily. We even take God’s love for granted, he said. A love that’s “manifested so clearly through Jesus’ words and acts in this Gospel story, giving not only his life but giving to us his example of service to one another.”

Diana Ruiz, parish receptionist and Hispanic ministry coordinator at St. Andrew, served as a musician on Holy Thursday. But she’s watched previous livestreamed Sunday Masses from home.

Her sense of loneliness “is increased by seeing the empty church during the Mass,” she said. But at the same time, “we are reinforcing a sense of community even in the absence of the ability to gather together.”

Mary Lou Stewart has been a member of St. Andrew for nearly four decades and watched the livestreamed Mass on the feast day. She said it helped her feel connected to her faith community.

“It brings a deep sense of gratitude for Father Dave and the parishioners who have done the work to reunite us at this challenging time,” she said, adding that the altar table had a new level of meaning for her this year “now that all of my meals are eaten alone.”

“The image of the Last Supper was more vivid because of it.”

Stewart missed being able to share in the traditional foot-washing, to gather in procession to receive Communion or sing “Tantum ergo” as the holy Eucharist was transferred for silent adoration.

“I look forward to next year when we can be together,” she said, “gathering with a new understanding of the mystery of the night.”