Together for Holy Week

One year after the COVID-19 pandemic forced church doors to be closed, pastors are inviting everyone who can to attend Holy Week services that commemorate Christ’s triumph over death.

“Jesus died on the cross for our sins, and in the Passion we join in His suffering,” said Father Kris Stubna, pastor and rector of Saint Paul Cathedral Parish in Pittsburgh’s Oakland, Greenfield and Hazelwood neighborhoods. “On Easter Sunday we will celebrate what is at the heart of our faith—He is alive.”

Bishop David Zubik will be at the cathedral for most of those liturgies, which will be broadcast, livestreamed and posted on YouTube for those unable to attend in person.

“It’s edifying to see so many people returning to Mass,” Father Stubna said. “They are hungry for the sacraments. Confessions are on the increase.”

Palm Sunday begins the annual remembrance of Jesus’ Passion, recalling His entrance into Jerusalem, where a crowd placed palm branches in His path as a sign of homage. The sacred journey continues through His arrest on Holy Thursday and crucifixion on Good Friday, to Holy Saturday, when Christ’s body lay in the tomb.

Together, these holy days are known as the Easter triduum—from the evening of Holy Thursday to the evening of Easter Sunday.

Palms will be distributed this weekend. However, due to COVID there will be no ritual washing of the feet on Holy Thursday, veneration of the cross on Good Friday will include a bow or genuflection, and holy water fonts will remain empty.

In Butler Area Catholic Parishes, Father Kevin Fazio said that Masses and services will be held in person, livestreamed and available on cable television.

“We’re starting to see more folks returning to church,” he said. “With these various channels, we are well-positioned to reach as many people as possible.”

Holy Spirit Parish of Lawrence County will celebrate Holy Week in three of its seven churches, according to Father Joseph McCaffrey, the pastor. The churches in use—Saint Mary, Saint Vitus and Saint Camillus—all have a hall or a gymnasium for overflow attendance which will allow for safe social distancing.

Holy Spirit Parish also will celebrate Easter Sunday Mass at 10 a.m. in the parking lot of the former Sears store in New Castle, where parishioners have been attending drive-up services since last June.

“Holy Week gives us an opportunity to come together,” Father McCaffrey said. “Many of our people are longing to get back to the sacraments.”

It’s hard for Catholics to stay at away at Holy Week, because it is at the heart of the Christian faith.

“With the Resurrection, we have everything we need,” Father Fazio said, “for life now, and life eternal.”