The community of St. Columban Catholic Church celebrated the return to mass together Memorial Day Monday

By Chuck Gibson

LOVELAND, OH (May 25, 2020) — It was like a resurrection as the church bells chimed at St. Columban Catholic Church Memorial Day, Monday, May 25, celebrating the return to mass for the first time in 10 weeks. An estimated congregation of about 100 attended the first mass since the suspension of Catholic Masses on March 16.

Kathy & Ray Karle can be seen returning to St. Columban for Memorial Day Mass, Monday, May 25, 2020 (Chuck Gibson)

Cars began pulling into the parking lot almost like any normal Sunday morning or Saturday afternoon before coronavirus (COVID-19) officially closed churches following the Monday weekday mass, March 16. The St. Columban community of believers began filing in, with masks on, for the 9:00 a.m. Memorial Day mass shortly after 8:00 a.m. Ray and Kathy Karle were among the first to arrive on the same day they were celebrating their 57th wedding anniversary. They’ve been attending mass at St. Columban for 53 years since joining the parish in 1967.

“Oh my God, I cried, I cried when I walked in church,” said Kathy. “It wasn’t the same. We watched it every Sunday. Not to be able to receive communion and to see our friends; to see the people. That, in itself was overwhelming. It felt so good. But yeah, 53 years we’ve been here.” 

It has been 58 years for Carol and Jim Fierro at St. Columban in Loveland, Ohio. Both are in their 80’s, both wore masks in church for the return to mass. 

An estimated 100 parishioners returned to mass at St. Columban Memorial Day, Monday, May 25, 2020 (Photo credit Cathy Nagy) 

Yes, the St. Columban community could watch the recorded video mass each weekend. The pastor, Rev. Larry Tensi and members of the staff did an outstanding job each week delivering Sunday mass. As Kathy Karle said, it just wasn’t the same. After 10 weeks away, it meant a lot to the Fierro’s to be back in church for mass.

“I’m so happy to be here, to come back to holy mass,” said Jim Fierro. “You can’t believe how joyful I am on the inside to receive the body and blood of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen brother.”

Rev. Larry Tensi, St. Columban pastor, welcomed the people back to St. Columban for mass (Chuck Gibson)

Rev. Tensi will begin his 18th year as Pastor of St. Columban in July. As the church bells faded, and people settled into safe social distanced pews, he stepped to the ambo and delivered a heartfelt welcome message. His first two words were simple, yet powerfully moving: “We’re back,” he exclaimed and joyful applause rose to the ceiling of the sanctuary. There was real joy in his heart as he expressed his words of welcome to the community and thanks to all the staff who helped record the video mass each of the 10 weeks while masses were suspended.

“Thanks to these people right here, they’re the ones who really engineered it,” said Tensi as he pointed to St. Columban Coordinator of Communications & Events Cathy Nagy.

Rev. Larry Tensi, Pastor, with Deacon Michael Brock under the Cross of Jesus at St. Columban during mass Monday, May 25, 2020 (Chuck Gibson)

Nearby were Terri Kerley & Scott Mussari who served as Lectors, proclaiming The Word each mass, Mary Bellman, Director of Music, Mary Beth Meyer, and other members of the eight-person staff who brought mass into the home of parishioners each week throughout the entire Easter Season. They did a wonderful job, but it just was not the same.

“It’s lonely,” Rev. Tensi said. “On Sunday, I’m sitting here, the bells ring and no one comes, it’s an eerie feeling. The bells beckon, they call us to come to worship. The old and the young and they all come. “I’m glad people are back. I’m excited. People clapped. They were very happy to be back. There were some people crying they were so happy to be back. They were tears of joy to be back.”

 It was a very emotional return to mass; to be present with the church community in the church. I write that from personal experience as a St. Columban parishioner who attended and shed tears of joy with so many of my brothers and sisters in Christ – my church family. Oh yes friends, it was very good to be back. It was truly a different kind of resurrection in the Catholic Church on Memorial Day, May 25, 2020.

The St. Columban parish family during celebration of Memorial Day Mass, Monday, May 25, 2020 (Photo credit Cathy Nagy)

“To see the people meant everything,” concluded Rev. Tensi. “I missed hugging them, shaking their hands. It was the strangest thing not being out there (after mass) with the crowd.”

Rev. Tensi also had a thoughtful message about a homily for the future.

“I hope for many people it is a new way of living; that we don’t go back to the same old stuff,” he said.  “We’ve had 10 weeks to really, really think about our priorities.”

Click here to visit the St. Columban website

St. Columban is a Catholic Church community of about 2,000 families.

The church, office and school are located at 894 Oakland Road, Loveland, OH – 45140