As we know many people were not able to participate in the Holy Week Liturgies this past Easter season due to the pandemic.  The Sisters of Providence in Kingston, Ontario, Canada rose to the challenge though as you will read about in this post submitted by Ann Boniferro, Director Of Liturgical Music there.  She says: 

Planning the Triduum liturgies is always a creative process, but this year required more innovation than usual as we adapted to the ever-changing challenges of COVID-19.

Providence Motherhouse in Kingston, Ontario is a residence for three communities of Sisters – the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul, the Congregation of Notre Dame and the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph. The Chapel of Mary, Mother of Compassion is a worship space for those residents as well as for other Sisters, associates, and members of the broader community. And the celebration of the Sacred Triduum is a highlight of the liturgical year. This year members of the Congregational Liturgy Committee found ourselves repeatedly modifying and revising the liturgies and rituals in response to ever tightening restrictions.

March 13 – Plan 1: Entry to the chapel would be limited to residents and staff, and gatherings restricted to no more than fifty people. This might work. The priest/chaplain, director of liturgical music, and staff in the Associates office would still be able to help plan liturgies and fulfill ministries. Seating was taped off so that appropriate social distancing could be maintained in the chapel. Only the presider would receive communion and venerate the cross, group processions would be omitted, and the ritual of foot-washing would be replaced with a video. We got to work adapting our original plans, selecting new ministers and preparing revised programs.

March 30 – Plan 2: A directive from the province of Ontario had now restricted gatherings to no more than five people. Since a camera in the chapel has regularly broadcast liturgies to Sisters’ room via closed circuit tv, Liturgy of the Word could be provided during the week by two Sisters. But could we honour the richness of the Triduum liturgies with only 5 people? And how might we provide spiritual support to the community outside of the Motherhouse? With the help of Mike Hammond, Communications Officer, we decided to pre-record liturgies for Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

A timeline of elements was created for each liturgy, and then a recording schedule which would limit the number of people in the chapel at a given time. On the Monday of Holy Week, with Mike as our videographer, three members of the Congregational Liturgy Committee gathered to begin recording scenes for the video to be played on Good Friday. Individual Sisters were called down one at a time to fulfill a particular ministry: proclaiming the Word, canting the psalm, incensing the cross or participating in a procession. Familiar hymns were sung by the small assembly of four.

On Wednesday morning we returned to decorate the chapel for Easter. Once again Mike recorded individual elements to be reassembled in order later for the Easter Sunday video. Although we were few, we sang joyful Easter hymns, ringing bells to highlight our Alleluias!

For each liturgy, a DVD was prepared to be broadcast to the Sisters in their rooms, and a YouTube link was emailed to Sisters, associates and members of the Sunday Faith Community. Friar Ed Debono, our chaplain, prepared written homilies for each day which were sent along with the text of the intercessions.

As this was our first-time recording liturgies, many lessons were learned that might improve any future recordings; however, we know from the many responses received that these resources were greatly appreciated by the community. Providence Associate Carol Groten commented, “I have been mourning the lack of our rich liturgies. However, seeing the décor, the women I know and familiar surroundings did lift my spirits. I had a feeling of connectedness with my community by being able to ‘participate’ in the … liturgies celebrated in the Chapel.”

They certainly were very creative and we are grateful that they shared their story with us!  

Barbara McMullen, CDP

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