NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Churches getting ready for socially distant Easter services are preparing for new beginnings.
On Tuesday, CBS2’s Jessica Layton visited a church in Elmhurst, Queens that is trying to move forward after suffering tremendous losses in the last year.
For months, the tolling of bells has collided with the screeching of sirens outside St. Bartholomew Parish Roman Catholic Church.
“This has really been a nightmare,” Father Rick Beuther said.
As a priest serving in one of the original epicenters of COVID-19, Beuther has seen so much sorrow.
“I think about like a tsunami. In the very beginning it was really tough, but the effects still remain here for us in Elmhurst,” Beuther said.
St. Bart’s lost 80 members to the virus, including four in the last month. Father Beuther and Sister Lucy Mendez both battled COVID, too.
When asked what she had prayed for during what has been difficult last 12 months, Mendez said, “I pray for hope.”
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Holy Week has been a time to reflect on the loss and hope for brighter days.
“As we get ready to celebrate Easter once again, we celebrate it really with new eyes, and a new appreciation of the gift of life,” Beuther said.
Last year, services were all virtual. This year, the parish is preparing for in-person Easter masses with precautions. Every other pew is roped off.
“We believe this is a good distance in between people. We bring Holy Communion to people,” Beuther said.
Masks must be worn and there will be sanitizer at every entrance.
When asked if he has noticed more people turning to their faith during the pandemic, Beuther said, “Yes, incredibly so. Just to have so many people with us here last Sunday proved it.”
Around 3,600 worshippers showed up for Palm Sunday services. Mendez said the church is expecting 4,000 for Easter.
“During difficult times people tend to be closer to God. He gives us hope,” Mendez said.
It’s a celebration of new beginnings for a parish that’s endured so much pain.
The diocese is also urging special precautions for Good Friday, including no individual veneration or kissing of the cross. It is also recommending each church prepare bottles of holy water that can be left for the faithful to take.
CBS2’s Jessica Layton contributed to this report