LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Local Catholic churches are reopening their doors to parishioners this weekend for the first in-person services since March.

Although some parts of mass are a little different, those who returned to Cathedral of the Assumption in downtown Louisville on Saturday said they were thankful to be back.

"This is a really important day for me," Jan Holtman said through tears. "I have missed not only being here to be a part of the services, but I've missed my church family."

Around 50 people attended a 5:30 p.m. mass Saturday, and the majority of them were wearing masks.

For many in attendance, Saturday's service marked the end of the longest period they've ever been away from church. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person services were among the mass gatherings prohibited by an executive ordered issued by Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear on March 19.  

U.S. District Court Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove in early May granted houses of worship the ability to resume in-person services May 10, earlier than scheduled, when he ruled against Beshear's executive order with regards to its restrictions it placed on worship. Beshear and other state officials were prohibited from "enforcing the prohibition on mass gatherings with respect to any in-person religious service which adheres to applicable social distancing and hygiene guidelines," the ruling said. 

Despite Tatenhove's ruling, the Archdiocese of Louisville instructed parishes to wait until May 20, which was the original reopening date under Beshear's phased reopening of the state's economy. 

"I'm happy to be back, but I'm doing it carefully," said Chris Holtman who last visited the cathedral during the second weekend of March. "It's an important part of our faith to be gathered in unity, and, even though we don't have to physically be in a church to do it, it's much more meaningful to be here in person."

The traditions of mass remain the same, but face masks are encouraged during services. Every other row is blocked off to allow space between congregation members. Families and individuals must sit at least 6 feet apart.

Communion happens in a single-file line, and the wine chalice is off the table. Basket collections being passed among visitors are suspended until further notice.

Hand sanitizer and boxes of masks are also on display near the cathedral's entrance.

"They're all compromises we're willing to make," Jeannine Chivatero said. "It's the most wonderful parish we've been a part of."

Despite the space, those in attendance expressed feeling closer than ever during difficult times.

"It has brought me closer to God," Jan Holtman said. "I keep remembering that God is in control."

The Archdiocese of Louisville announced an exemption from the obligation to attend mass. Additionally, anyone who is sick, lives with someone who is sick or simply feels vulnerable is asked to stay at home.

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