Your donation supports our high-quality, inspiring and commercial-free programming.
Support Icon
Discover all the ways you can make a difference.
Support Icon
The Leadership, Advancement, Membership and Special Events teams are here to help.

Here's What Mass At L.A.'s Cathedral Looks Like During Coronavirus

Support Provided By

The following article was originally published June 7, 2020, and republished through a collaboration with KPCC and LAist.

Story by Josie Huang

The Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels is the main church of the largest archdiocese in the country, able to seat 3,000 people.

But the pandemic has forced the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to overhaul how it ministers to its five million person flock.

The angular, cavernous cathedral rising above the 101 Freeway reopened Sunday with a self-imposed limit of 100 congregants per mass. Attendees were seated six feet apart, and every other pew was left empty.

The ritual of taking Communion had been deconstructed. Both the parishioner and priest extend their arms as far as they can to exchange the Eucharist. The parishioner then walks to a spot about 12 feet away marked with an "X," and consumes the Eucharist there. Only the "body of Christ," not the "blood," or wine, is being offered.

Elayne Gonzalez, a homemaker from East L.A., brought her two daughters, ages 11 and 18, to the cathedral because her own parish allows only 15 people at a time under the new reopening rules.

She said it was uncomfortable to sit with a mask on for almost an entire hour, but it was a small price to pay to be in church, especially during a pandemic and ongoing protests throughout the region.

"I really feel that the world's in an ugly place right now," said Gonzalez, her eyes welling up. "And I feel that when you come here, you feel close to God and you know that he can lift everything up, and through Him all things are possible."

Gonzalez said she felt very safe because of the precautions the Archdiocese was taking against COVID-19. They also include:

  • Before you enter, volunteers ask if you've had a fever
  • You're required to wear face coverings
  • Pews are marked with numbers
  • If you later get sick, you're asked to contact the archdiocese with your seat number
  • Parishioners are given hand sanitizer before entering the sanctuary
  • Pews, bathrooms and high-contact surfaces are sanitized between services

"It's different," Gonzalez said, "but if there's measures that we have to do in order to keep everybody safe, I'm okay with that."
The Archdiocese had planned to reopen the cathedral on Wednesday, but waited several days because of the protests that have been taking place downtown.

Father David Gallardo said he was just as excited as his parishioners to have in-person services.

"After two-and-a-half months of being in this massive Cathedral with just a camera, it's so good to actually see faces sitting in those pews," Gallardo said. "It's been moving for me just to see a number of our parishioners' tears, especially as they received the body of Christ."

Father David Gallardo said he was just as excited as parishioners for the cathedral to reopen. | Josie Huang/LAist
Father David Gallardo said he was just as excited as parishioners for the cathedral to reopen. | Josie Huang/LAist

When Joi Cornel heard on Sunday morning that the cathedral was reopening, she got in her car and rushed downtown.

The Los Angeles bookkeeper showed up about 10 minutes before the 10 a.m. English mass, but it was already too late. The cathedral had already hit its 100-person limit.

Turned away, Cornel mustered a smile, talking about how she had virtually traveled the world during the pandemic, having watched streamed masses in Rome and her native Philippines. But nothing was the same as sitting in the pews, and taking communion from her priest.

"It gives me strength, like spiritually," said Cornel, growing teary. "And it's food for my soul."

Support Provided By
Read More
A member of the national guard in blue protective gear holds a box out to a person placing a coronavirus test in a box from a car.

California Braces for Omicron COVID Variant

The omicron variant has not yet entered the U.S., but California is already bracing for a surge in COVID cases.
COP26 Coalition Protestors Take Part In The Global Day of Action for Climate Justice

After a 'Disappointing' UN Climate Summit, California Youth Activists are Back to Work

Youth climate activists have criticized the COP26 pact for being "vague" and failing to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. For one activist, the disappointment with negotiations at the global level inspired him to focus his work more locally in Southern California.
Man looks out into forest from a fire lookout tower.

Lookout Towers Still Play a Role in Fire Monitoring

Thousands of fire lookout towers were built throughout the U.S. in the first half of the 20th century. Today, while satellite and infra-red devices lessen the need for lookouts, they still have a place in the fire monitoring system.