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Panjim Church

Re-opening of Immaculate Conception Church – A Report

Our Church reopened its doors to the faithful on November 15, in accordance with the Archbishop’s circular. At present, the Church, St. Sebastian’s Chapel and the Archbishop’s House Chapel are open for Mass. Zones 1 to 4 attend Mass at the Archbishop’s House, Zones 8, 9, 10 and 13 attend Mass at St. Sebastian’s Chapel and the remaining zones attend Mass at the Church.

The weeks preceding the opening saw a vast operation in planning, procurement and execution. At present, the Mass that we are able to attend is a result of the behind the scenes work and presence of our priests, the Coordinating Team (13 members), 60 volunteers and the PPC.

The Church premises required extensive preparation. Pews were removed to make way for 42 numbered plastic chairs, placed 6 feet apart in all directions, with floor markers to ensure that chairs are not shifted. Indoor floor and wall signage shows the direction of movement, entry, exit and distanced queuing. To minimize the possibility of cross-contamination, there is one-way flow of movement inside, and no other surfaces such as statues, hymnals etc. can be touched. Outdoor markings and signage indicate safe waiting spots. Posters designed with relevant safety and educational instructions are positioned at various places for people to be aware of the procedures we must adhere to.

To understand all possible considerations, our priests and Moderator visited other churches and invited other Moderators to a meeting with our office-bearers.

Once the physical space and process were planned and prepared, Coordinating teams and volunteers were trained to understand the guidelines from the Archbishop’s circular and government SOPs, as well as how to guide people to the correct spaces outside and inside the Church, registration check, temperature check, the precautions and Mass order to be followed at all times.

Once this was complete, on November 12, the team from the Bishop’s House inspected the preparations and gave permission to resume Masses, w.e.f. November 15, 2020.

Through the weeks, the PPC identified how many people would want to attend Mass when it resumed. At present, Masses’ attendance is segregated by age group; PPC representatives register attendees at least 4 days in advance of every Mass. Age groups are those between 10 and 65 years of age, with separate Masses arranged for those below 10 and above 65 years of age.

Every zone has a Coordinating Team member to see to their needs and to liaise with the Volunteer team assigned to that Mass. By arriving 20 minutes before the start of Mass, participants’ registration and temperature is checked, self-sanitisation is completed and ushers direct them to their numbered seats placed 6 feet apart on all sides. They must keep masks on at all times throughout the Mass. There is a single cantor and lector for each Mass. In keeping with uni-directional movement inside the Church, Holy Communion is distributed at the end of Mass, just prior to exiting. When there are consecutive Masses, the Church is sanitised by means of fogging, immediately after the first Mass.

A big part of the exercise has been Frs. Walter and Reagan / Moderator scheduling Masses at the Church, Fr. Roque / Chapel committee doing the same at St. Sebastian’s Chapel and Fr. Mario / Vice Moderator managing this at the Archbishop’s House Chapel, such that the most number of people can be accommodated in safety.

We are in the season of advent as well as in the Novena of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, and it is a joy to once again be able to participate in the fullness of the Eucharist, in person. 

Note: St. Sebastian’s Chapel accommodates 32 while the Archbishop’s House Chapel can seat 20.

– Runa Tavora Aggarwal

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