An Easter People in the Time of COVID

Lent, Holy Week and Easter at St. Boniface, as in the rest of the world, was celebrated in unique and moving ways due to the worldwide health crisis caused by the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Onset of Crisis

The parish’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Party was, by chance, celebrated rather early in 2020, on March 1, a few days after Ash Wednesday. Few, of any, present that day foresaw that it would be the last social occasion they would be able celebrate in physical proximity to each other for a number of months.

Parishioner Belinda Basaca Zeitlin had already organized and conducted the first session of a Family Lenten Retreat series and a demonstration of Passover Seder, but by the time St. Patrick’s Day itself had arrived, the Diocese of Rockville Centre had announced that it was joining surrounding Dioceses in suspending the public celebration of liturgy and all other public gatherings. Within a week, most religious entities in the United States had taken the same step.

Safe Together at Home for Lent and Easter

The balance of Lent and Easter were celebrated by the parish from the safety of home by parishioners lucky enough to be able to shelter there, praying for the safety of friends and relatives who were members of groups especially endangered by the virus and others the world came to revere under the heroic title of “front-line” servants to their community.

These brave people included physicians, nurses, EMT’s and other medical personnel, first responders, sanitation and utility workers, restaurant and retail employees and all manner of public servant. With everyone else, parishioners were inspired to describe them what they always were, “essential” to society, or, as our church teaches: people using their God-gifted charisms to build up the Kingdom.

The Parish reminded the neighborhood about these special people by ringing the church bells every afternoon at 3 PM.

How St. Boniface Prayed and Stayed Together

St. Boniface had long had in place a “virtual” online infrastructure which parishioners, staff and clergy now pushed into high gear in order to celebrate Lent and Easter while unable to congregate physically together.

The parish had established a website soon after the dawn of he internet and had embraced other elements of social media, particularly Facebook, as they developed. These tools were invaluable in allowing the parish to gather as well as it could under the unprecedented circumstances thrust upon it by the COVID-19 health crisis.

The last three sessions of the Family Lenten Retreat series were held via “Zoom” conferences, allowing participants to see and share directly with each other online. Zoom also provided parishioners and friends to pray Lenten Stations of the Cross as if they were present in the church building.

Sunday Mass came to be celebrated online, streamed on Facebook Live and archived on the website and the parish YouTube channel. Parishioners who had not previously felt called to embrace social media, particularly senior citizens, now appreciated the semblance of community it provided, particularly for the observance of the Easter Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, Easter and related devotions.

The St. Boniface Youth Group also met by Zoom; young people were already familiar with it since all middle, high school and college classes had begun using such tools once school campuses were shut down because of the crisis.

Fathers Kevin Dillon, Chinthaka Perera and Azubuike Igwegbe, concelebrated Holy Week and Easter Masses, often in the of members of the Sisters of Jesus the Savior residing at St. Bonface in attendance and proclaiming the readings. Musical Director, Jeff Schneider, played the organ and Cantor, April Beisser, sang on Easter Sunday and on other Sundays providing a most welcome sense of “normalcy”.

The following videos are samples of some of the observances streamed during the crisis:

Community Easter Dawn Service 2020

A multi-lingual service, hosted by the eight-member churches of the Committee for the Community Easter Dawn Service, was streamed online on Easter Sunday 2020.

Community Easter Dawn Service 2020

The message of Easter was shared by local clergy, including Fr. Kevin and Fr. Perera. Robert Lynch opened and closed the service with the bagpipes.

Easter Dawn Service 2020 Program

Streamed Easter Vigil 2020

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