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Improvise, adapt and overcome.

Parishes throughout the Diocese have followed this unofficial Marine Corps adage in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic as they move forward with outdoor Masses that allow children to experience the unforgettable moment of receiving their First Holy Communion. “It will be a memorable day for you to remember that you not only were the first group of 2020 to receive the First Holy Communion at St. Martha but to receive your First Holy Communion outdoors,” Father Carlos Martinez told the small crowd gathered in the parish parking lot.

As with the regular Mass and other Sacramental liturgies such as Confirmation, Baptism and Weddings, the First Holy Communion Masses are currently held outdoors. Attendance is limited to 100 people, six-foot social distancing is observed and masks are worn by all. Also, under Diocesan Directives, First Communicants receive the Body of Christ, but not the Blood of Christ. The cup is not to be offered at any Masses in the Diocese presently. Many families are applauding their parish’s persistence in offering the Sacrament in the face of the pandemic.

“My child receiving the First Holy Communion during a pandemic meant that not even a pandemic can stop the grace of God,” said Nereida Orozco Beltran from St. Frances of Rome Parish in Wildomar. It’s also a reminder that we should always stay close to God during uncertain times as well.”

Beltran said her son, Ivan, was so nervous leading up the Mass that he practiced how he would hold out his hands to receive the Body of Christ and say ‘Amen.’

“Oh, how I hope that you could be that excited about your faith for the rest of your life,” she wrote in a social media post.

St. Thomas the Apostle held First Communion Masses on four consecutive Saturdays beginning Aug. 8.

“We are also grateful that our parish continues to be a place for spiritual nourishment for all, especially to our children,” wrote Father Resti Galang, M.S.P., administrator of the parish. “May they grow in faith and love of Jesus!”

Other parishes have elected to spread out their First Communion Masses over a period of months, including St. James Parish, which will see 325 children receive their First Holy Communion during 13 Masses through November. St. Catherine of Siena parish in Rialto will provide the Sacrament to the same number of kids in 26 Masses through September. St. Francis of Assisi parish in La Quinta has chosen to offer First Holy Communion at regular Sunday outdoor Masses, providing the Sacrament to 150 children.

A few parishes were able to hold First Communion Masses in their churches before the mid July State order prohibiting indoor worship services in counties experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases. Both San Bernardino and Riverside counties were included. St. Peter and St. Paul Parish, Alta Loma, St. Phillip Neri, Lenwood and Sacred Heart, Riverside all held indoor First Communion Masses in late June and early July.

“She was so happy to finally do it,” Sacred Heart parishioner Lily Valdez said of her goddaughter (and niece), Sophia, receiving her First Holy Communion on July 13. “It was a dream of hers. She is blessed. God’s timing is always perfect.”

While many families were glad that their parish made adaptations to offer First Communion Masses during the pandemic, some have elected to postpone their child’s participation until restrictions are lifted. This includes 32 families at St. Anthony parish in Upland, 45 families at St Catherine of Alexandria parish in Riverside and 17 at St. Louis Parish in Cathedral City.