NEW YORK (UKTN) – Churches preparing for socially distant Easter services are preparing for a fresh start.
On Tuesday, UKTN’s Jessica Layton visited a church in Elmhurst, Queens, which is trying to move forward after suffering huge losses last year.
For months, the sound of bells collided with the cry of sirens outside the Roman Catholic Church of St. Bartholomew Parish.
“It really has been a nightmare,” said Father Rick Beuther.
As a priest serving in one of the original COVID-19 epicenters, Beuther experienced so much grief.
“I am thinking of a tsunami. At the very beginning it was really difficult, but the effects are still there for us at Elmhurst, ”said Beuther.
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St. Bart’s has lost 80 members to the virus, including four last month. Father Beuther and sister Lucy Mendez have also battled COVID.
When asked why she had prayed during the past 12 difficult months, Mendez replied, “I pray for hope.
Holy Week was the time to reflect on the loss and hope for brighter days.
“As we prepare to celebrate Easter again, we truly celebrate it with new eyes and a new appreciation for the gift of life,” said Beuther.
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Last year the services were all virtual. This year, the parish carefully prepares the Easter Masses in person. All the other benches are roped.
“We think it’s a good distance between people. We bring Holy Communion to people, ”said Beuther.
Masks must be worn and there will be disinfectant at each entrance.
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When asked if he noticed that more people were turning to their faith during the pandemic, Beuther replied, “Yes, unbelievably. The simple fact of having so many people with us last Sunday proved it.
About 3,600 worshipers showed up for Palm Sunday services. Mendez said the church expects 4,000 for Easter.
“During difficult times, people tend to be closer to God. It gives us hope, ”Mendez said.
It is a celebration of new beginnings for a parish that has endured so much suffering.
The diocese also calls for special precautions for Good Friday, including the absence of individual veneration or the kiss of the cross. He also recommends that each church prepare bottles of holy water that can be left with worshipers to take away.
Jessica Layton of UKTN contributed to this report