Diocesan News

Catholics Celebrate Scaled-Down, Yet Prayerful Easter in Midst of Coronavirus

Brianne Ratka, youth minister at Saint Finbar Church in Bath Beach, drove around the neighborhood in an Easter-themed car to surprise parishioners. (Photo: Courtesy of Saint Finbar Church)

By Paula Katinas

BENSONHURST – Even in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic that closed churches and prevented Masses, many still found a way to celebrate Easter.

Catholics in the Diocese of Brooklyn marked the most important day on the Christian calendar by holding pared-down, yet prayerful celebrations featuring as many family traditions as they could muster.

Priscilla Consolo’s family normally hosts more than two dozen family members at their Gravesend home with everyone digging into a delicious leg of lamb. This year, Consolo, a lawyer, spent Easter Sunday with her parents and her 93-year-old grandfather eating ravioli.

Still, it was meaningful. “It definitely takes some planning and creativity to have Easter under these conditions. You have to make the best of the situation,” Consolo said.

Like all New Yorkers, Consolo was unable to attend her church, Our Lady of Grace in Gravesend, due to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s mandatory stay-at-home order. But she and her mother made sure to watch Easter Mass on television. Consolo, who is a lector, also read Scripture passages about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ aloud to her parents.

Claudia Sepulveda, a parishioner of Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Jamaica, who spoke to The Tablet on Saturday, said she was planning to cook traditional Spanish dishes for her son and brother.

“Our tradition is to have a beautiful meal. And we have a lot of sweets for dessert. That’s for sure!” said Sepulveda, who is originally from Colombia and serves as the director of medical records in a nursing home.

Despite the fact that her parish cannot hold public masses, Sepulveda said she still feels connected to the church and fellow parishioners. “Social media is amazing at this time. It is the best instrument we have,” she said.

Sepulveda planned to take part in the church’s Easter Vigil on Saturday, which was livestreamed on Facebook.

The various Easter celebrations around the Diocese took place amid the backdrop of stark coronavirus statistics. As of Easter Sunday, there were more than 103,000 confirmed cases in New York City and nearly 7,000 deaths, according to the New York State Department of Health.

Sister Maryann Seaton Lopiccolo, a Sister of Charity–Halifax and the Episcopal delegate for Religious in the Diocese of Brooklyn, spent Easter Sunday serving others.

She prepared a roast chicken dinner for two elderly women who live in her building. She has been looking out for her neighbors and doing their grocery shopping since the coronavirus outbreak began.

“We’re doing what we’re supposed to do,” Sister Lopiccolo said.

While her life has been disrupted somewhat by the stay-at-home order, she is coping well.

“Our spiritual lives carry on. You have to adapt. I find that I have extra time for reflection and prayer. It’s also a blessing to have so many options for the liturgy through TV,” she said.

Catholics also used a little ingenuity to brighten the day for those feeling stranded.

Brianne Ratka, youth minister at Saint Finbar Church in Bath Beach, gathered a couple of volunteers, decorated a car with painted Easter eggs, put on a pair of rabbit ears and drove around the neighborhood, surprising parishioners outside their homes.

“We thought that since people can’t come to church, we would come to them,” she said.

Ratka, whose family is Polish, enjoyed kielbasa, perogies, and other traditional dishes with her family at dinnertime.

Ratka refuses to let the pandemic get her down. “The coronavirus can’t kill faith,” she said.

Some families chose to postpone large Easter dinners until it’s safe for large family get-togethers.

Camille Orrichio Loccisano, the founder of the cancer charity Frankie’s Mission, celebrated Easter quietly with her 90-year-old mother Josephine watching Mass on television and praying together.

“As an Italian Catholic Family, there are two major things that make our Easter memorable — prayer and food,” she told The Tablet. “I told my family that when we are in a safer climate, we will try to celebrate Easter with all the traditions at a later date.”

2 thoughts on “Catholics Celebrate Scaled-Down, Yet Prayerful Easter in Midst of Coronavirus

  1. A wonderful article Paula. I was one of the recipients of the drive by egg decorated car with Brianne, her bunny ears and family
    I was so touched it brought me to tears. Being alone in a house usually filled with family and the aroma of traditional ham and lamb, it brought light out of dreary and comfort out of loneliness. God bless them