Calgary Easter tradition cancelled because of COVID-19 pandemic

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WATCH: Coronavirus-related restrictions on public gatherings mean Easter will be much different this year. Church services have been cancelled, as has a Good Friday tradition that Calgarians have been celebrating since 1983. Gil Tucker reports. – Apr 9, 2020

Easter Week is normally a very busy time at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Calgary, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s celebrations will be much different.

Provincially-ordered restrictions on public gatherings mean the annual Way of the Cross procession has been cancelled, along with many services at the cathedral and others churches around the city.

Organized by the Roman Catholic Diocese of the Calgary, The Way of the Cross has happened every year since 1983 in the streets around the cathedral.

READ MORE: Calgarians gather for Way of the Cross walk on Good Friday

The event sees people take turns carrying a wooden cross in a procession that stops at 14 stations, reflecting on the journey recounted in the Bible, as Jesus Christ approached his crucifixion.

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More than 3,000 people took part in the event in 2019.

Smaller processions also happen each Easter at several other churches in Calgary.

Among the regular participants is Sean Lynn, who says it’s always been a special experience for him and his family.

“[It’s] the whole community, coming together and being one,” Lynn says.

READ MORE: Happy Easter

People in the procession also reflect on people struggling with major challenges in the modern world, hoping to apply the lessons of the Bible to try to help them.

“[The Way of the Cross] takes us back to the time of Jesus,” says participant Carmela Cabrera. “Before the crucifixion.”
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Even without the procession, Good Friday 2020 still brings the chance for the faithful to connect with Easter traditions while facing the realities of the pandemic.

“This year we have an opportunity to really look at the isolation that [Jesus] felt,” Lynn says, “as so many people are isolated from one another.”

The cancellation of the Way of the Cross brings new challenges for church leaders.

“In my lifetime, I have never experienced this… not being able to celebrate Good Friday,” Bishop William McGrattan says. “But I know that we’re in this situation with the pandemic, so I’m really encouraging and supporting the parishes to livestream their mass and to reach out to their parishioners.”

Church members are trying new ways to connect at Easter.

READ MORE: How to have a virtual Easter Egg hunt

“Even though we are quite disappointed that we couldn’t do the Way of the Cross this year, we understand,” Cabrera says. “But there’s a lot of other things that we can do; [connecting online] through Zoom, some prayers with a few friends from church.”
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“This year, we pray on Good Friday for those who are experiencing the effects of COVID-19 and the pandemic,” McGrattan says. “We need to unite ourselves with them in our lives, through prayer, but also through acts of service and charity, and I know that many throughout the city of Calgary are doing that.”

People who have regularly taken part in the procession are hoping to be part of it again next year, while making the most of Easter this year.

“Easter comes on Sunday, no matter what the situation is,” Lynn says. “It’s kind of like the Grinch that stole Christmas — Christmas still came.”