BEAUMONT, Texas — This year, many churches are looking forward to welcoming worshippers back in the pews, but that doesn’t mean they're ignoring COVID-19 safety precautions.
Karen Gilman with the Diocese of Beaumont says there were only ten people in attendance at St. Anthony Cathedral Basilica for mass last Easter. This year, they're expecting a much larger crowd.
Gilman said since Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent order to reopen Texas to 100 percent and lift the mask mandate, most churches in the Diocese have seen an increase in attendance. She expects this to be the case and then some for Easter Sunday.
"We really want to encourage people to come out because we are still being very safe, very safe in all of our churches." Gilman said.
Gilman said all churches in the Diocese, including St. Anthony Cathedral Basilica, continue to enforce mask wearing, social distancing and safe practices to protect parishioners from the virus.
For example, every other pew is marked off inside the cathedral to promote social distancing.
"We are asking families, if they live in the same household, they can sit together but if you're not, please have some social distancing." Gilman said.
Gilman said the past year has been tough with live streaming masses and seeing very low attendance in church. She said people are ready to be back at mass seeing familiar faces especially on Easter Sunday.
"Easter's always a day that people enjoy going to Church. They really want to be part of their church family." Gilman said.
Father William Manger with St. Anne Catholic Church agrees.
He said the church also still enforces masks and social distancing, but he knows many people are ready to enjoy Easter mass in person.
"I dearly miss being able to fill the church and to fill it abundantly again and again and again as we have done in the past," Father Manger said.
Father manger says while St. Anne's won't be having their traditional Easter egg hunt, he's looking forward to seeing more familiar faces at Sunday’s mass.