St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church has remained open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Their goal has been to spread hope while making worship accessible for everyone.
The Mercury spoke to Maureen Daoust, who is the pastoral council chairperson. She explained how this past year has been a sometimes challenging but always rewarding journey for the parish.
They recently celebrated the achievements of this journey.
"There are a lot of people who are maybe feeling down or negative about COVID, and we made a distinct choice to be positive and to celebrate all of the things that we were able to do and that we were able to remain open," Daoust said.
Throughout the pandemic, adoration became a key practice of worship for the parish because it was possible to enforce restrictions and follow guidelines easily.
They have also found ways to use technology to establish a sense of community.
"We created a communications committee. We were able to create some videos throughout various liturgical seasons within our parish. Those were shared. We have an email list of about 400 families that we reach out to every week."
The church has continued to prioritize being able to celebrate sacraments throughout COVID, especially the anointing of the sick, a crucial last step for many.
Daoust shared that anyone who cannot attend an in-person service can participate in online masses and receive a weekly message from the archbishop through Regina's Archdiocese. Parishioners also have access to a digital platform called formed.org, where they can sign up to receive resources to help them on their faith journey.
Fortunately, the Government of Saskatchewan has recently reduced restrictions for places of worship. St. John the Baptist Church has been able to have a maximum of 150 parishioners attending in-person services.
Daoust would like to assure people that the church's staff members are doing everything possible to create a safe environment.
"We are following all of the Saskatchewan Health Authority guidelines and the ministry restrictions that are being placed upon us. Enhanced sanitization is taking place. We're not exceeding the numbers that we're allowed; all of our pews are marked, we have ushers that specifically seat people, and contact tracing is taking place."
The parish looks forward to seeing everyone back throughout the Easter season, a deeply meaningful time for Catholics.
"This week is Holy week, and we have some Easter celebrations and Easter services coming up. We thought that maybe we could spread some hope, joy and positivity."
Daoust would like to acknowledge the vital work that has made the success of their parish possible throughout this time.
"A big shout out to Father Sathi Antony. He has increased the number of masses to meet the needs of people during special liturgical seasons. We acknowledge his superhuman efforts and what we call true discipleship and leadership for our parish."
The past year's accomplishments have been the result of the outstanding support within the parish's community.
"It's definitely been a team effort. Our parish staff have been instrumental. Connie Wheeler, our pastoral assistant, has been right beside Father through it all, too, supporting him and our parish. Everyone has been pitching in and pulling together to make sure that it's safe."
The parish would like to thank their parishioners for their generous continued financial support. Many people began donating electronically throughout the pandemic. Consequently, the year ended well financially for the church.
Anyone interested in attending mass can sign up on the parish website, the Facebook page or by calling the parish office. You can find in-person mass times for upcoming Easter celebrations on the church's website.