Catholics across Northern Ontario begin Holy Week leading to Easter Sunday
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie has implemented directives that will
allow Catholics to celebrate Holy Week while following safety measures and all
COVID-19 restrictions. Holy Week includes the most important celebrations in the
Catholic calendar which follow the final steps of Jesus leading to his death and
“Last year, we were unable to celebrate these holy days due to the lockdown, so we
eagerly anticipate being able to mark these celebrations, although with strict safety
measures in place” said Bishop Thomas Dowd, the Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of
Sault Ste. Marie.
While churches will be open for public celebrations, adaptations have been made for
each celebration. On Easter Sunday, the day that Catholics mark the resurrection of
Jesus from the dead, new water is blessed and traditionally sprinkled on the faithful
people as a reminder of their baptism.
This year, following the success of distributing blessed ashes for people to bring home at
the beginning of Lent, churches will provide bottles of blessed water for Catholics to
take home with them to bless themselves at home with the rest of their family or
members of their household. They will also be given a short prayer service and a small
candle to pray with at home.
“These are important rituals at Easter for the faithful people that we do not want to
completely forego” said Bishop Dowd, “and we want to include those who are still not
comfortable returning to church as well.”
Other ceremonial changes during each Mass have also been directed by the Diocese, in
accordance with current safety measures. On Holy Thursday, priests would traditionally
wash the feet of parishioners, following the example of Jesus who washed the feet of his
Apostles, however this year this ceremony will be omitted.
On Good Friday, while Catholics typically come forward individually to honour a large
wooden cross, in remembrance of the cross that Jesus died on, this will take place
communally and from a safe distance.
On the eve of Easter, during the highest celebration of the church year, traditionally a
fire burns outside of churches, and the inside of the church is illuminated by candle light
that attendees pass from person to person. This year, this tradition will also be omitted.
Catholic churches are also adhering to the current capacity restrictions, as well as social
distancing and mandatory mask measures. Many churches will offer live-streaming of
the Holy Week celebrations.
“While our celebrations may be different this year, we also recognize the joy that the
Risen Jesus brings to each one of our lives, even in a time of pandemic,” said Bishop
Dowd, “Easter allows us to focus on the hope our faith brings to us, despite the ongoing
challenges we are facing.”
Catholics are encouraged to check with their nearest Catholic church to see available
times for Holy Week celebrations, and when to pick up bottles of holy water along with
a prayer service and small candle. For more information, to see a copy of the prayer
service, or to watch a tutorial video, visit: www.dioceseofsaultstemarie.org