la jolla

La Jolla Church Moves Service Outdoors Due to Restrictions

“It’s a different feeling when you can actually come together with people and have the priest live and in person,” a La Jolla resident said

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The rise in COVID-19 cases forced the State of California to prohibit indoor church gatherings this week. Now, many local congregations are taking their message of faith outdoors.

Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Church in La Jolla, turned a basketball court into their new place of worship. The pandemic has transformed the traditional rituals at the church, as well. 

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Instead of holy water, worshippers get a spray of hand sanitizer as they walk in.  Signs remind people to maintain their distance and keep their face covering on. Once people receive their communion, they must leave.

On Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered places of worship to shutdown indoor operations in San Diego County and other counties on the state’s COVID-19 watch list.

Moving services outside has created a lot of extra work for church leaders, but it has also created advantages.

Because mass is now outdoors, Mary, Star of the Sea can now accommodate more people. Some older church members who were worried about indoor gatherings now feel safer praying outside.

“I’ve had people cry, I’ve had people with just the joy,” said Father Patrick Mulcahy about his congregation’s desire to meet in person.

“That’s why this adaptation is so important,” Mulcahy added.

“It’s a different feeling when you can actually come together with people and have the priest live and in person,” said Joseph Brannigan, a La Jolla resident.

A sign at Sunday's mass reminds worshippers to maintain distance from one another.
-Ramon Galindo

“I think there’s nothing like the personal touch,” Brannigan added.

With COVID-19 infections still high in San Diego, outdoor church services will likely be the norm for some time. Parishes in the San Diego County Catholic Diocese are still doing online services, for members who are sick, or who are more vulnerable to Coronavirus.

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