‘Please God let the pandemic reduce’: Parishioners attend first maskless mass at Waterbury church

New Haven

WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — It was a time to rejoice for many at Wednesday’s midday mass at The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Waterbury.

“People are very happy that this day would finally come,” said Father Jim Sullivan. “There’s a sense of joy. There’s a sense of freedom.”

Wednesday was a significant day in the progress made in the fight against COVID-19. The Archdiocese of Hartford deciding effective June 9, those parishioners who are fully vaccinated against COVID do not have to wear facemasks during mass.

RELATED: Archdiocese of Hartford issues new guidelines for Mass as COVID infection rates drop, vaccinations up

That was a blessing for Kathleen Oemcke.

“It’s just a wonderful experience to be able to worship with everyone together and be free from our masks,” Oemcke said.

Under the new rules, masks still must be worn by clergy conducting Communion and for those churchgoers not fully vaccinated, like Debra Logan.

“Of course I don’t want to jeopardize anyone’s health — not that I have COVID,” Logan said. “But I feel better wearing a facemask.”

So does John Machado. He tells News 8, for him, it’s just too soon to ditch the mask. Machado lost his uncle to COVID-19.

“His wife worked in the hospital as a nurse and I guess she brought it home without knowing it and he had heart trouble,” said Machado.

Father Sullivan is praying for no more losses inside and outside of his church. He’s hopeful people will continue to follow the guidelines sent down from the governor and the CDC to work together to put the pandemic behind us.

He tells News 8 he believes Wednesday was a big step towards normalcy.

“We’re happy with this new change and please God let the pandemic continue to reduce,” he said.

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