For some families, as soon as the announcement was made that public Mass would be resumed on Pentecost Sunday, there was no question that they would do everything possible to attend.

St. Joseph in Big Bend welcomed parishioners back the weekend of May 30-31. (Photo by Michelle Kreuser)

“We missed our home away from home for the past 11 weeks,” said Holly Machi, a parishioner at St. Joseph in Wauwatosa and a mother of two.

“We need the Mass. When it’s not there, you know you are missing something,” said James Fee, who belongs to St. Mary’s Visitation Parish in Elm Grove with his wife Katy and four children. “I served in the military and was based in Alaska and deployed overseas. There were times when there was no priest to offer Mass, and nothing quite fills that hole when it’s not there. There was no doubt we would plan to attend once things were opened back up.”

For others, it was a matter that required some careful discernment.

“I was feeling nervous about returning to Mass, as we really have remained in quarantine until just a week or so ago,” said Katie Kopp, a parishioner at St. James Parish in Mukwonago. “My children have not been out in public anywhere where they have needed to wear a mask; so this was something very new for them. We prayed on the decision to return, spoke with family members that live out-of-state that returned to Mass sooner than we were able to, and felt cautiously optimistic about our decision.”

A lot of families understandably had concerns about how well their children would reacclimate to worship in a pew and not in front of a TV screen.

“They weren’t necessarily the most attentive over the last 11 weeks for ‘TV Mass,’ even though it was generally shorter; so how they would handle a real Mass led to a little trepidation,” said Fee.

“I definitely felt anxious about how things would go,” said Kopp. She and her husband decided to split up for Mass, with Kopp taking the older kids to the Mass of anticipation on Saturday at St. Joseph Parish in Big Bend. They went through all of the guidelines and even practiced wearing masks.

“But I was pleasantly surprised that my anxiety over all the minor inconveniences of the new guidelines and stipulations seemed to just sort of fade away once we got into a pew and knelt down,” she said. “Fr. Kevin (McManaman) started Mass by saying he almost didn’t want to begin because he just wanted to look at us all for awhile and how he felt that he may cry he was so happy. His comment was very disarming and made me tear up immediately. I just thought, ‘Lord, it is good that we are here.’”

“I think it was exciting and a little bit scary for the kids to be back; so they were shockingly calm and respectful,” said Virginia Redden, a parishioner at St. Monica Parish in Whitefish Bay and a mother of four. “The little ones had trouble remembering how to whisper and it was hilarious trying to mouth the word, ‘whisper’ to them through a mask. Whispering through masks is futile.”

Michele Savoie, who attends St. Bernard Parish in Wauwatosa, said that she is trying to “evangelize” the safety of the Mass to her friends. “It allows them to ask questions — what is the confessional like; is it safe? Everyone asks about the confessional,” she said.

“The most beautiful moment was receiving Jesus again,” said Machi. “I actually started to cry just before we went into line. I was overwhelmed and had so much joy in my heart. We all have never needed Jesus more. Being at Mass was right where we needed to be.”

Fee encourages parents “to keep the momentum going.”

“The kids behaved better at Mass this weekend than they had in a while, including Masses before the shutdown; so we are hoping it’s the start of a new trend,” he said. “We worry that they fell into a routine of not getting up and getting ready for Mass on Sundays. We have to get them back into the mindset that it’s something they expect and know we do as a family. A TV Mass is an extremely imperfect way to maintain that.”