The parking lot seems an unusual setting for a sacred rite. But the coronavirus has much of normal life locked down and St. Mary Parish is getting creative — so Mass, outside, in the parking lot.

Sunday, May 24, St. Mary Parish had its first outside Mass, with worshipers attending in their cars, and the priest addressing them from a sanctuary set up on the back of a borrowed truck.

“It took much work from many people, but was worth it,” Monsignor Kevin Royal, pastor of St. Mary, said of the open air Mass in Keeping Us Connected, the parish newsletter. “And we must thank Pamby Motors for graciously providing the flatbed truck for our makeshift sanctuary.”

Two outdoor Masses are planned for this Sunday, May 31, at 10 a.m. and noon. Registration for the outdoor Masses is available on the parish website.

“Registration is absolutely necessary for this to work reverently, while observing health guidelines,” Monsignor Royal said.

Thirty-six cars can register for each Mass, based on using the side lot of St. Mary School, three rows of cars, and appropriate spacing, said Carolyn Haitsch, communications manager of the parish.

“Registration was full within an hour for last week’s Mass, so we added an additional Mass this weekend,” she said.

St. Mary Parish has been livestreaming 10 a.m. Mass each Sunday from the church since the pandemic started, she said. Last weekend’s outdoor Mass was livestreamed, as well, and can be viewed on parish website and Facebook page.

“There was very positive feedback this weekend. Parishioners appreciate all the efforts made on their behalf to bring them livestreamed masses and now public masses,” Haitsch said.

“Monsignor Royal has made serious efforts to stay connected with parishioners by sending his Keeping Us Connected newsletter three times a week with video messages, reflections, and church updates,” she said.

“Our clergy has also offered parishioners twice-weekly drive-up confessions and twice-weekly Eucharistic Adoration in the church from 12-6 p.m. The Church has been open daily from for private prayer, all with social distancing rules in place and daily sanitizing.”

Last week, the Trump administration issued guidance to states designating houses of worship as “essential” and putting pressure on governors to allow churches, synagogues and mosques to reopen.

Asked if St. Mary planned to pursue this as an option, Haitsch was diplomatic.

“We are slowly taking steps to get back to public Masses. As things progress in a positive way, we will consider all avenues available to us, which are approved by the state and diocese,” she said. “The safety of our parishioners is our biggest concern.”