EDMONTON -- Members of the Catholic Church attended Sunday mass this weekend for the first time since COVID-19 shut it down. But following their faith, also meant following strict health guidelines.

“We want to welcome people back. We know we can only do that in small numbers as we begin but certainly we want to welcome people back,” said Father Paul Kavanagh with St. Joseph’s Basilica.

St. Joseph’s took its cues from the Roman Catholic Bishops of Alberta, which released guidelines on Tuesday for Catholic Churches across Alberta. 

Hand sanitizers and signs reminding people to physically distance greeted churchgoers at the door like an usher. Inside, volunteers polish the pews with a disinfectant. Before parishioners can enter the cathedral at St. Joseph’s Basilica, they were screened by volunteers armed with a questionnaire inquiring about possible symptoms and recent travel.

Mass is capped at 50 people for the time being. Parishioners have to physically distance. Staff and volunteers wear a mask. There is no singing but plenty of prayer. 

“This is a very important time in our faith. Certainly our prayer during this time of pandemic. But also that of our faith, our belief in God,” Kavanagh said 

Receiving wholy communion meant breaking the two metre rule so those participating had to wear a mask. 

“Because we believe that the Eucharist is the true presence of Jesus, watching a mass on TV just isn’t the same as being in his presence,” Kimberley VanderPijl said. 

“It’s like returning home.”

“Our parishoners have been very good. Very responsive. They’ve been patient with the things we’re asking them to do as they come in,” Kavanagh said.