After 2 years of COVID, Christians are finding ways to share while reflecting


As the season of Lent arrives this week, Ilene Jabboori-Ryan notices a difference in how she and other Christians in Metro Detroit approach it.

Like last year, the liturgical time of prayer, penance and almsgiving in preparation for Easter is taking place during the COVID-19 pandemic. But this time, as virus cases dwindle and protection requirements diminish, worshipers expect to find fewer restrictions. That means optional mask-wearing and more chances to reunite in person, reminiscent of scenes they shared more than two years ago.

“Seeing people come out means we’re getting back to some normality,” said Jabboori-Ryan, a devout Catholic from Berkley. “It looks like people are freer.”

Burdenlessness is an important theme of Lent, which ends with Easter Sunday April 17 and reflects the 40 days when Christ repelled temptations in the wilderness.

Since the period calls for reflection, spiritual growth and “cleansing” of the soul, devotees often decide which objects and habits to throw away at this time, finding replacements through meditation, reading the Bible or by giving back. The overall goal is to deepen their relationship with God.

It’s also about renewal, said Reverend Mario Amore, who is part of the team of priests serving at St. Aloysius, Most Blessed Sacrament and St. Mary’s Cathedral in Detroit.

“The word Lent means spring,” he said. “Lent is a time to recognize this call to conversion that we all have in our lives. We all need this time to pause to recognize the presence of God and to call ourselves to repentance, to turn away from our sins and to be faithful to the gospel.”

The eve of the start of the Lenten season has traditionally led to followers emptying their homes and cupboards of troublesome and fattening food to prepare. It became known as “Fat Tuesday”, when sweets end up in paczki, the Polish pastry that attracts many customers every year.

A parishioner sits inside the National Little Flower Shrine during the 'Paczkis on the Porch' event, preceding the start of the Lenten season, at the National Little Flower Shrine in Royal Oak, Michigan, on March 1, 2022.

A variation on this tradition took place at the national shrine at the Little Flower Basilica in Royal Oak on Tuesday. Hundreds of people attended the outdoor “Paczkis on the Porch” celebration for free pasty candies, hot dogs and ice carving. They also had the chance to confess indoors and pray.

“It’s one last hurrah before we enter a more contemplative state,” said longtime Royal Oak member Marilou Hoffman as she stood in the crisp air with her 9-year-old daughter. “It’s fun to do it with the community.”

The separation was difficult early in the pandemic at the national shrine, which has more than 3,000 families, said Judy Maten, a volunteer who leads women’s ministries there.

Like other congregations in the Archdiocese of Detroit, live streaming services remain an option throughout Lent, but many prefer to return in person, she said. “There’s just a feeling that there’s a community again. So many of our members have felt so isolated during the pandemic. We realized how important community is.

A similar refrain marks the observances of Lent in the clustered parishes of Sacred Heart in Yale and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Emmett, both in St. Clair County.

Services have been held in a Sacred Heart Hall to allow for social distancing, but the plan is to gradually return to the church building by Easter, said Deanna White, youth and community ministry coordinator. family life.

Meanwhile, members are offering a living Stations of the Cross during Holy Week, and many are planning the Archdiocese’s new Family Prayer Challenge, which includes a downloadable game board with 40 pieces for each day of Lent.

“We’ve found that families who have returned crave new experiences through the church,” White said. “They are looking to deepen their relationship with Jesus because of the uncertainty with what is happening in the world.”

Little emphasizes this more than the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, which reverberates through southeast Michigan.

Six-year-old Jack Hollis watches ice sculptor Clinton Rich of Clear Cut Ice carve an angel at the Paczkis on the Porch event on Tuesday.

Since many members of the Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Catholic Church in Hamtramck have ties to the country, the crisis has cast a veil over the congregation, its leader, the Reverend Daniel Schaicoski, said.

During a special novena on Sunday, “people were crying,” he said. “It was like a funeral. It was so sad. There was no way to cheer people up. So my speech was, ‘We are together in this. We have to stay strong because our people need from U.S. “

The church has begun collecting medical supplies and other aid for Ukrainians, and supporters are encouraged to support several funds launched to continue relief efforts.

As news of the violence abroad grips parishioners, raising fears of broken families and young people lost in battle, Schaicoski sees hope in the inspiration of the holy season.

“I pray that we can rise again at Easter,” he said.

Detroit Catholic Archbishop Allen Vigneron, who marks Ash Wednesday with a Mass at St. Aloysius, noted the overlapping times in a statement this week.

“Pope Francis spoke of his sincere anguish and concern over the deteriorating situation in Ukraine. As we begin this solemn season of Lent, let us pray for the safety of all those in danger and for a peaceful resolution. and just current tensions,” he said.

“Our Holy Father also reminds us of Jesus’ teaching that the diabolical absurdity of violence is answered by the ‘weapons of God’ of prayer and fasting. Here in Southeast Michigan, I encourages priests and residents of the Archdiocese of Detroit to join their prayers with those of Pope Francis for a day of fasting for peace on March 2, Ash Wednesday.

May the Queen of Peace continue to promote diplomatic efforts and put an end to any action that causes further suffering to the Ukrainian people.”


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