Maureen Conway her daughter, Emily, participate in the Mass at the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception in Albany on Sunday.  (Cindy Schultz photo)
Maureen Conway her daughter, Emily, participate in the Mass at the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception in Albany on Sunday. (Cindy Schultz photo)

“Welcome back home.”

These were the words of Father David R. LeFort, rector of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany, as public Masses returned to the Diocese of Albany this past weekend. 

It was, at last, a return to a certain kind of normalcy.

For the first time since March 15, public Masses were celebrated in parishes on the Feast of Corpus Christi, soothing the faithful of the Diocese, who have been longing for the return of the Eucharist.

“It was a great joy on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord to welcome the faithful back to Mass and the reception of Holy Communion,” Father LeFort said after the Mass. “For all who have hungered for these past months for this food that truly satisfies, let us recall the truth of what this food really is. 

“It is a mark of divine love, and the wise providence of God, that he has left us this perpetual memorial of the saving offering of his Son. The joy that radiated from the faithful as they received Our Lord in Holy Communion was refreshing and renewing for so many!”

Bishop Edward B. Sharfenberger canceled public Masses way back in March to stop the spread of the coronavirus. When Masses returned last weekend, churches were at 25 percent capacity, masks were required and people were encouraged to bring their own hand sanitizer. Not all churches were open, however, many pointing to a Father’s Day return this Sunday; the dispensation from Sunday obligation remained in effect, livestream Masses continued and several parishes held outdoor Masses as well.

At the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany on Sunday, the Mass offered a familiar comfort minus the periodic safety instructions from Deacon Timothy Kosto. The instructions mainly involved how to receive the Eucharist while wearing a mask (approach wearing a mask, receive in the hand, step away, pull your mask down and consume the Eucharist and then pull your mask up) and how to leave the Cathedral.

The weekend was simply a time to be thankful for the return of public Masses. The Cathedral had a Saturday Vigil at 5:15 p.m., and the Sunday Mass at 11 a.m. Father LeFort added approximately 160 people in total attended the Masses.

“I’ve greatly missed our being together and sharing in the Eucharistic feast. So how fitting is it then for us to return once more to our offering together of this Eucharist on the solemnity of the most holy body and blood of Christ, Corpus Christi,” Father LeFort said during his homily.

“In these last months, I have heard countless times of people’s hearts longing to be close and intimate to our Eucharistic Lord. Yes, while many have remained close to Jesus by entering into a deeper spiritual Communion, I know it’s still not the same as a personal encounter with the body and blood of our Lord which he left us as an everlasting memorial of his body and blood poured out on the cross that terrible Friday. So with thanksgiving to almighty God, I am so pleased and blessed to welcome you home again.”

Several parishes, including St. Joseph’s in Greenfield Center and Mater Christi in Albany, held outdoor Masses. At Mater Christi, the parish’s first public liturgy since the reopening of churches was celebrated by Father James Ebert, pastor, on the lawn next to the rectory Sunday.  Despite the chill in the air, approximately 160 people attended.

“Mater Christi is very blessed with a large green space in the City of Albany.  Our reopening committee wanted to take advantage of this as it affords us the opportunity to welcome as many parishioners as possible,” Father Ebert said. “Looking out at everyone sitting on lawn chairs and blankets on the Feast of Corpus Christi gave a sense of the Sermon on the Mount and the feeding of the five thousand.  I really can’t put into words how nice it was to see the faces of my parish family after all these months and to celebrate in community the source and summit of our lives.”