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Churches Adopt 'Physical Distancing' Measures For Holy Week 2020

Jim McIntosh
Creative Commons
St. Patrick-St. Anthony Church in Hartford.

For Catholics marking Holy Week – the final days of lent leading up to the Easter celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ – worship is much different than last year.

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The usual public rituals that traditionally happen in the church are now going on virtually due to fear of Coronavirus spread.

In other years, congregants of St. Patrick-St. Anthony would show up to the 3 p.m. service on Good Friday at the church in Hartford. At one point during the proceedings, they’d be invited to “venerate” the cross -- an act of the faith recognizing Christ’s death for the salvation of his people.

Father Thomas Gallagher now asks virtual church-goers to bring their own cross.

“It can be as simple as sticks they’ve tied together to form a cross or it could be a family heirloom,” Fr. Gallagher said.

The church is adapting social distancing measures in the age of COVID-19 by holding this service in the virtual world. Holy Week events are streamed from of St. Patrick-St. Anthony where just the parish’s Franciscan Friars and a few musicians are present.

While Fr. Gallagher acknowledges initiation into the church can happen at any time, Holy Saturday is traditionally when many choose to be baptized.

“Simply because it is renewal of baptism for all of the community,” Fr. Gallagher said.

“It is the life for all of the community. It’s the new life that comes from resurrection.”

But for now, those who were to be baptized this Saturday will instead hope to be initiated during the Pentecost vigil in May.

Fr. Gallagher said he’ll miss the energy of the congregation in the church for Holy Week 2020.

“While there’s physical distancing, there really is not the social distance.”

He said parishioners – albeit virtually – are still connecting in “wonderful” ways.

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