People choose to pray in various ways during silent prayer at the Holy Hour.

The rosary is just one way that people pray, along with meditation and reading Scripture, in churches without the Mass during the coronavirus pandemic. (Sarah Webb)

Although parishes in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia continue to livestream Masses in the absence of public Mass during the coronavirus pandemic, churches have not shut their doors completely.

Faithful Catholics do have opportunities to spend prayerful time in person before the Blessed Sacrament while maintaining a proper distance from others.

Wednesday, March 18 marked the last day Catholics could attend most Masses, besides small funeral liturgies. When Archbishop Nelson Perez decided to suspend public liturgies he asked that pastors keep their respective churches open for private adoration, where possible, so people who were able to come and pray could do so.

Throughout the archdiocese, folks are making the best of it.

St. Andrew Church in Drexel Hill is open Monday through Saturday from 5:45 a.m. until 5 p.m. Msgr. Albin Grous, pastor of St. Andrew’s, keeps the Blessed Sacrament exposed on the altar from 8:15 to 5 p.m. for people to pray. On Sunday the church is open until noon. 

Among parishioners taking full advantage of the opportunity is a couple that usually attends weekday Mass together, so they continue to try and visit every day.

“It’s a wonderful thing,” said the gentleman who did not wish to give his name. “We do some praying. Very few people are there. It’s a good opportunity we have and we use it.”

St. Norbert Parish in Paoli keeps its main church open from 9 a.m. to noon daily. Heather Makowicz sees the chance to pray before the Lord in person as an alternative to simply praying from home. 

“When you go there, invitations are clearer and the sense of union with God is clearer,” said Makowicz. “My mind slows down. I can receive his presence in a deeper way. There is extreme gratitude having his presence before us.”

Attempting to stay connected during this unprecedented time, Makowicz has spoken to other friends about how they remain in contact with God and each other.

A prayer group from St. Isaac Jogues in Wayne meets to pray in the church parking lot at a safe, physical distance. Members of St. Ann’s in Phoenixville meet to pray the rosary on the parish lawn while taking the necessary precautions and enjoying nature at the same time. 

“Being a Catholic is so much about being part of community,” said Makowicz. “It restores a sense of hope that God can move beyond obstacles and present the opportunity to engage with him.”

Joann DiFederico, a lector at St. Joseph’s in Downingtown, misses seeing the congregation and hearing the word of God but she found a recent visit to a quiet church very peaceful and intimate.

“There is something so very special to sit in the presence of God in his house as if you are the only one in the world that has his attention in that moment,” said DiFederico. “I found it to be very peaceful and also a blessing.” 

St. Pius X Church in Broomall is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. As people stop in for quiet moments every day, the parish’s priests frequently receive notes, texts and emails from parishioners expressing their gratitude for being able to come and pray.

“I am continually edified by the people who come in throughout the day to pray for our world, to lay down their own burdens and to seek out what is truly ‘life-sustaining,’ which is Jesus, present in the Eucharist,” said Father Eric Banecker, parochial vicar at St. Pius X.

“Our homes are called to be domestic churches but making visits to church throughout the day is a wonderful practice that perhaps will be revived during the pandemic. We are called to intercede for each other in prayer for the Lord, especially for those who are sick or suffering in any way.”