BETTENDORF, Iowa — Father Jim Vrba at St. John Vianney's Catholic Church says he's happy to have people back in the pews after missing out on three months of in-person services due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's great to have people celebrate mass with you but its a little awkward with all these different protocols," Father Vrba says.
Those protocols mean face masks for everyone and a shorter mass of 30 minutes. There's no more singing, and every third pew is blocked off to allow for social distancing.
The church is at a much smaller capacity of 170 people, from its original capacity of 900. Those giving out communion wear extra protection -- a face shield over their face mask.
"Jesus says 'It's my body and blood, do this in memory of me,'" Father Vrba says. "Well yeah, let's do it now again. That's so important for Catholics."
Deacon Daryl Fortin says it was disappointing to be away from in-person mass services, and he's happy to be back.
"Just the opportunity to be back together and celebrate mass as a community, even though it's a restricted community we're in, it's a blessing to do that," he says.
Parishioner Mitchell Narvasa says it's a blessing to receive communion again.
"There's two aspects people really love about coming to mass," Narvasa says. "It's the community part, and they love their faith. Mommunion is that thing we receive, the body and blood of Christ, we all receive together."
He helped stream services online during the church's closure, but he knows that didn't fill the gap for everyone.
"Not being able to do it in person takes a big part of our lives away," Narvasa says.
Parishioner Bill Horak was emotional returning to his first mass since the closure.
"I mean it's been so long. It's been 3 months," Horak says. "It's joyful. It's just good."
The church is asking parishioners to sign up online through Event Brite for weekend mass so they can get a head count, but they will also continue to stream its services online.