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Easter is the most sacred season on the Christian calendar and with churches forced to close due to concerns over COVID-19, worshippers are finding it difficult to recognize Holy Week as usual.
Here on the Northside, so many events leading up to Good Friday have been cancelled.
At St. Joseph Parish in Little Bras d’Or, the highly anticipated annual presentation of “The Prophet” will not go ahead.
“The Prophet” is a compelling dramatization of the life, crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.
Director and parish priest, Fr. Peter McLeod, spent the past number of years honing the dramatization and he is saddened that it can’t go ahead on Good Friday this year.
“This would have been the 14th annual production of “The Prophet,” said McLeod.
The parish priest understands the current situation with COVID-19 is serious and he recognizes the restrictions that have been put in place on people gathering in large numbers is important.
“Because of COVID-19, parish life has completely changed. There are no public services at all, which is difficult for an organization which is social in its very essence. All of our liturgies are based on the gathering of the people. Yet we understand the gravity of the situation and try to make the best of it.
“A decree from Rome, and passed on through the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, calls for no physical participation of the faithful during the Paschal Triduum — Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday — with the clergy permitted to celebrate these services without the people as an exception to the norm."
Given the current restrictions, it would be impossible to go ahead with “The Prophet” this year.
According to McLeod, a lot of work and planning goes into the production and rehearsals begin well in advance of Good Friday.
“We had a number of people who have taken part in the production in the past agree to come back this year. We also had several new actors who were excited to be a part of the project as well. Thankfully, many of the people interested in taking part will be around next year. That gives us hope that we will be able to pick up where we left off when the time comes.”
The planning was well underway when the decision was made to cancel the performance.
McLeod said the text had been prepared and the musicians and singers had already started their preparations.
“The people who take part in the production each year are always eager to do their part. From the actors to the musicians and the people in charge of costumes, everyone involved is asked to take part in a number of rehearsals. They give up a lot of their time to be part of the production.”
Perhaps even more disappointed with the cancellation of the “The Prophet” are those who look forward to the dramatization each year. Hundreds of people from all denominations and from all over Cape Breton anticipate taking in the dramatization. Many of them return year after year because they are moved by the story.
“We have received so many wonderful comments from people over the years about the enactment. They comment on the authenticity and accuracy of the depiction. It is affirming and it is nice to know that people appreciate all of the work that goes into a production of this nature.”
In an attempt to put the circumstances relating to COVID-19 into perspective as it relates to the church, McLeod reminds us that as we prepare to commemorate the life, death and resurrection of Christ during this holy season, it is important to remember that we are connected in prayer.
“At this time we must remember in a special way, those impacted most by the virus; the ill and their families as well as those caring for them.”
Sherry Mulley MacDonald is an author and freelance journalist. She is a lifelong resident of the Northside with a fondness for the community in which she lives.