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Virtual Easter

Catholics face reality of observing Holy Week from their living rooms

By VERONICA AMBUUL
04/03/2020 | Comments

COLORADO SPRINGS. With churches in the Diocese of Colorado Springs prohibited from holding public Masses until at least the end of April, Bishop Michael Sheridan and parish pastors are making plans to celebrate Holy Week and Easter liturgies in front of video cameras so that parishioners can participate via YouTube, Facebook, or other social media platforms.

As he did for the fourth and fifth Sundays of Lent, Bishop Sheridan will record Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil liturgies at St. Mary’s Cathedral, and they will be available for viewing on the diocesan website, www.diocs.org. The Chrism Mass, traditionally held on the Tuesday before Easter, will be rescheduled for a later date. Most parishes are continuing to offer confessions at scheduled times, and some are continuing to hold eucharistic adoration with the caveat that no more than 10 people be present at any one time.

As the State of Colorado’s “Stay at Home” order extended into April, parishes were continually finding new ways to stay in touch with parishioners.

Just about every parish in the diocese is posting livestreamed or recorded Masses on their websites — many offering both weekday and Sunday Masses. (See pages 8-9 for details on each parish.) Several pastors are also posting weekly talks or meditations.

St. Rose of Lima Parish in Buena Vista is publishing a newsletter titled “The Corona Chronicles” that provides links to local county offices, passes along prayer intentions, and offers contact information for local Knights of Columbus members who are willing to provide assistance.

Many parishes are using FlockNote or similar platforms to send out daily reflections from pastors and updates. Several also reported that they are enlisting Befrienders and other volunteers to make personal phone calls to parishioners, especially those who are senior citizens.

At Pax Christi Parish in Littleton, parishioners were encouraged to set up a prayer corner or altar in their homes and send pictures that could be posted on the parish website. Faith formation classes are being continued through video-conferencing, with opportunities given to parents to pick up materials, said Joanne Lafond, administrative assistant.

Nonetheless, there is no denying that the restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic has caused significant disruptions to parish life.

The nearly 200 catechumens and candidates in the diocese who were scheduled to be baptized and receive other sacraments of initiation at Easter are now in a kind of holding pattern.

Sean Houston, a catechumen who has been going through RCIA at St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish, said that he does not know when his baptism will take place. Despite the delay, he is not having any second thoughts about entering the Catholic Church, he said.

“I’ve never felt better about my faith,” Houston said.

According to the general liturgical guidelines issued by Bishop Sheridan on March, baptisms can continue to be performed but with only immediate family members present.

Weddings that were scheduled before the liturgical restrictions went into effect can take place, but the total number present cannot exceed 10 people, including the celebrant. Parishes are currently not allowed to schedule any new weddings.

Ashley Black, who lives in the Archdiocese of Denver and works for CatholicMarriagePrep.com, had set a wedding date of June 19 prior to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. She and her fiancé have already had to cancel their 10-day honeymoon in Italy, but now it is unclear whether the wedding Mass itself will happen as planned.

“We’re on the fence,” Black said. “We’re hoping and praying that this has passed by mid- June.”

Meanwhile, parish confirmations that were scheduled for April and May have been cancelled.

And the diocese’s planned ordination of 19 permanent deacons, originally scheduled for May 23, has been postponed until restrictions on public liturgies are lifted.

“These are extraordinary times and delaying the diaconate ordination is a very small inconvenience compared to the suffering our fellow citizens are encountering and will encounter,” said Ed Wilmes, one of the deacon candidates who was to be ordained. “Our ordination will happen in due time and I look forward to it, but it is in God’s time, not my time, and this is a call for all of us. This is a time of service through prayer — let’s all step up our prayer for peace and healing of our fellow human beings.”


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