Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Easter Sunday at St. Patrick’s Cathedral was still a grand affair.
Although the special Easter service was capped at 50%, a line of humanity still crowded around the historic cathedral brimming with those hoping to make it inside. The eager attendees were decked out in their finest Sunday garb, with some appearing as if they had stepped right out of the early 20th century while others exhibited a more contemporary fashion sense. Since the Easter Bonnet Parade, which usually passes St. Patrick’s Cathedral, has been moved to a virtual event for the second year in a row, many attendees decided to still dress for the occasion.
Whatever the state of dress, many parishioners felt as though St. Patrick’s Cathedral was not only the place to worship, but it was also the place to be seen worshiping.
Still, regardless of the fanfare, the ever-looming shadow of COVID-19 still lingers over the faithful, but they hold steadfast, not allowing the virus to interfere with the holiday. Conrad Lesa attends church every Sunday, so he is very much familiar with the safety procedures at St. Patrick’s Cathedral such as empty pews between worshipers. This Sunday was particularly important for Lesa, so he made sure to arrive early to get a seat for the Easter mass.
“I always come to church on Sundays, and Easter Sunday is very important to me,” Lesa said, holding onto a leather-bound Sunday Missal—a collection of Sunday lecture readings throughout the year—to help follow the mass.
As the faithful filed inside, many more would be left outside throughout the entire service. Herve Pierre was one of many hoping to be able to make it before the line was cut off. The Fifth Avenue residents frequents St. Patrick’s Cathedral, not just on Holidays.
“I am a foreigner, and I’ve lived in New York for over 25 years, and I cannot celebrate Easter with my family. I’m alone in New York, so I come here to celebrate Easter,” Pierre said.
As individuals filed into the hallowed halls, there was a renewed exuberance amongst the crowd as they experienced a semblance of normalcy. There was once again life within St. Patrick’s Cathedral for Easter as the halls rang out with the religious hymns of parishioners. Sunday’s ceremony was a ticketed affair to adhere to capacity and distancing protocols, and all those in attendance were required to wear masks. In contrast to the spring of 2020 where Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan held his Easter sermon virtually within an empty St. Patrick’s Cathedral, this year was a happier affair.
“A blessed Easter everybody! Welcome to America’s parish church, St. Patrick’s Cathedral. If we can’t be in Jerusalem, if we can’t be in Rome, this ain’t bad. So we are thrilled you are with us,” Cardinal Dolan said, beginning the service.
Holy communion was also held a bit differently this Easter. After Dolan delivered his homily and spoke regarding the death and resurrection of Jesus, he blessed the Eucharist where churchgoers were handed the bread before they themselves slipped it under their masks and into their mouths.
“It’s been an amazing week. We started last Palm Sunday, and in even in spite of all the restrictions, it’s been an extraordinarily awesome and inspirational holy week,” Cardinal Dolan said, concluding the service.
While the festivities were a welcoming respite from the pandemic for many, a small group of demonstrators gathered across the street from St. Patrick’s Cathedral in protest of recent comments made by Pope Francis stating that according to the Catholic religion homosexuality is a sin and that priests cannot bless same-sex unions. Here protest organizer, Brendan Fay, called for the blessings of all marriages.