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Pandemic’s second Easter brings hope

Some families to celebrate Easter in person

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It has been a busy week for the Maria Regina Roman Catholic Church in Seaford, as it welcomes guests at services for Holy Week, between Palm Sunday and Easter.

Unlike last year, there is hope on the horizon for a return to normal. “On the 16th of March [2020] we were closed down completely,” recalled Deacon Gerald Whitfield. “I found it very difficult to celebrate anything. We had to scramble, if you will, to do Zoom.”

The losses from the pandemic can never be regained, Whitfield said, but parishioners gained a new sense of community. “We did home visits at the curb, we had drive-bys, people came up and drove by the church and we could say a blessing for them,” he recounted.

Mary Slaven and her family often attend services, and her children go to the church’s religious school. Last year, she said, was the first time in her life that she didn’t attend Easter Mass.

“Fast-forward to this year, and you’re able to do a lot more,” Whitfield said. “We’re able to come to church.”

Easter Triduum services — Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter — will still have limited capacity, in keeping with social distancing guidelines. The church will be able to welcome 400 parishioners, and Whitfield said he though it would be filled to allowable capacity, because people are eager to return to their religious traditions and join their community in person.

“The vaccine certainly has played a tremendous role in people coming back to church,” he added.

Slaven said she had also seen an increase in the number of people attending in-person services. “More people are coming together,” she said. “They’re feeling more hopeful about the season itself.”

John-Paul Smolenski, a parent of a student at the Maria Regina School, said his family was looking forward to attending Easter Mass. The family, from Melville, has been attending in-person services since December.

“My mother is going to come to church with us,” said Smolenski. “My mother is a teacher, so she was able to get the vaccine, and my in-laws are older, so they’re getting their first shot, and their second shot soon. We’re all getting together for Easter at our house, and then church in the morning.”

After church, Slaven said, her family was planning a small gathering and an Easter egg hunt.

“We’ll have a family meal for the first time in ages,” Whitfield said. “Almost everybody has gotten the vaccine, so that helps out. We’ll have about 14 people or so. We’ll have a great Easter dinner.”

While Covid-19 remains a risk, the number of vaccinated Long Islanders is increasing every day. As of last Saturday, 34.5 percent of Nassau County residents had received at least one shot, according to Nassau County Executive Laura Curran. 

“We are a hopeful people,” said Whitfield. “And really, hopefully we’ll beat this pandemic.”