The Rev. Daniel Greenleaf delivers a parking lot Mass to parishioners at Prince of Peace Parish in Lewiston on May 3. Courtesy of Catholic Diocese

LEWISTON/AUBURN — “This is the first time I’ve preached to cars. It’s rather odd I have to say.”

The words of the Rev. Seamus Griesbach’s homily fell upon a parking lot full of parishioners listening from their cars to the Mass, celebrated before them on outdoor staging on Sunday, May 3.

“Do you beep when you appreciate something?” Fr. Griesbach asked before a series of loud car horn sounds rang out from the parking lot.

“Okay, let’s not get carried away,” he answered.

May 3 marked the first day of these Masses following Governor Mills’ announcement allowing the celebration of public Masses in Maine parking lots. The Portland Dioceses issued protocols last week to ensure the safety of parishioners and celebrants.

Parking lot Masses were held at 10 a.m. at Saint Dominic Academy and two morning Masses (8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.) were celebrated by The Rev. Daniel Greenleaf, pastor of Prince of Peace Parish in Lewiston, in the parking lot of Geiger on Mount Hope Avenue. The Masses will continue this weekend

At both venues, volunteers directed cars into even rows, allowing for space between vehicles. Doors remained closed throughout the Mass. Participants could tune into the Masses on their radios thanks to low-power FM transmitters providing the sound.

“This pandemic has struck at the very heart of who we are as Catholics,” Griesbach told the participants in Auburn. “In this world, life sometimes involves journeys through dark valleys. We don’t have a weak, fair-weather shepherd who only knows of green pastures. He is not just on a sunny hillside whistling a sunny tune in some Instagram ready scene. Jesus has walked the dark valley and he knows the way.”

Leadership was a central theme at all Masses last weekend for Good Shepherd Sunday, which highlights the pastoral aspect of the ministry of Jesus, who speaks of himself as the one to whom the sheep listen, one who would never abandon his flock.

“It is the teaching that Jesus is the great Shepherd and those who follow him are the sheep. They hear his voice and recognize it as coming from their shepherd,” said Greenleaf during his homily. “Jesus is the great leader who cares for his followers. During the difficult times, which invites all kinds of questions and uncertainty, Jesus remains steadfast. Jesus remained faithful to the end. Jesus the Good Shepherd brings us to a greater place than where we are; he knows who he is and his unwavering values through struggles and crises.”

Holy Communion was not distributed at the parking lot Masses as those in cars made an Act of Spiritual Communion during the Masses. Catholics in Maine continue to be dispensed from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s so important to pray for our leaders and for ourselves as leaders, and we pray the God will raise up good leaders after his Son, the Good Shepherd, and that he will provide for all those who follow Christ,” said Greenleaf. Following Mass, Greenleaf strapped on a face mask and waved goodbye to parishioners as they exited.

Offertory collections are also not held at parking lot Masses as parishioners are instead encouraged to donate to their parish online through WeShare (www.portlanddiocese.org/OnlineGiving) or by mailing in donations to the parish office.

This weekend, new parking lot Masses at St. Anne Church in Gorham (Saturdays at 5:30 p.m. and Sundays at 9:30 a.m.), Holy Family Church in Greenville (Saturdays at 4 p.m.), and St. Faustina Church in Jackman (Sundays at 11 a.m.). Prince of Peace Parish will be offering parking lot Masses Mondays through Fridays at the Holy Family rectory in Lewiston at 8 a.m. Any additional parking lot Masses across the state will be added to portlanddiocese.org/ParkingLotMasses.

Parishes will continue to offer drive-thru confessions, drive-in adoration, as well as using social media platforms to offer an assortment of other opportunities for prayer and educational program presentations. These and other opportunities can be found at the Diocese of Portland’s coronavirus response page (portlanddiocese.org/response-coronavirus), which is updated several times daily.

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