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COVID-19 forces Buffalo churches to use "Virtual Worship" for Holy Week

See a list of several local churches that are offering online services for Holy Week
Posted at 5:42 PM, Apr 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-10 03:15:20-04

BUFFALIO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Holy Thursday is the start of a solemn time leading up to Easter Sunday for Christians around the world and here in WNY.

Holy Week also includes a number of special traditions such as visiting seven (7) different churches, washing of the feet by Catholic priests, and the blessing of Easter Baskets - all of which cannot happen this year because services and gatherings are prohibited due to the Covid-19 public health emergency.

"It will be like no other Holy Thursday or Sacred Triduum we have ever celebrated before," said Fr. Paul Seil, pastor of St. Bernadette Roman Catholic Church in Orchard Park and chaplain for the Buffalo Fire Department.

However, many churches are using the internet and digital means to keep people connected to each other and their faith. There are now so many options, that it is surprising to some people. "I've been in church more than I ever have in my life because I go online," explained Jean Dulak, an Eucharistic Minister and active parishioner at Our Lady of Victory Basilica in Lackawanna.

One popular Buffalo tradition is to visit seven churches on Holy Thursday night. In order to keep people safe, Fr. Paul suggests staying home and searching out seven churches through the internet and then saying a prayer.

The blessing of Easter baskets is another favorite Holy Week activity that takes place on Holy Saturday. Many churches have canceled those blessings. However, St. Joseph University Parish in Buffalo is taking a creative approach by offering a "virtual blessing" through its website and Facebook page. "We will say the prayers that we always say. At the end, there will be a small basket that we'll sprinkle and then sprinkle the camera with Holy Water also," said Fr. Jack Ledwon, pastor.

Catholics are not the only ones using technology for Holy Week. Many churches including St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral, True Bethel Baptist Church, and The Chapel in Getzville (among others) have plans for Holy Week and Easter online services.

Here are some links to churches offering "Virtual Worship"

Our Lady of Victory National Shrine and Basilica (Lackawanna)

St. Bernadette Roman Catholic Church (Orchard Park)

St. Joseph University Church (Buffalo)

St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral (Buffalo)

True Bethel Baptist Church (Buffalo)

The Chapel at Crosspoint (Getzville)

Pope Francis / Vatican