SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) The annual Solemn Novena to St. Ann will still be held July 17th to July 26th but with significant changes due to the COVID crisis.
Since the 1920s, thousands of people have gone on the spiritual pilgrimage held each summer this year, however, will be unlike any previous one.
According to Rev. Richard Burke, a pastor at St. Ann’s Basilica, the novena will be made available for as many people as possible in the safest way. This year, there will be no masses or services held outdoors and no tents to sit under. The entire celebration will take place inside the basilica but only at 25 percent capacity.
“Everyone’s going to be wearing face masks. Everybody is going to be socially distant,” Burke explained to Eyewitness News.
Another noticeable change will be the lack of singing. While seating inside the church will be reduced, stay-in-car parking in the front and back parking lots will be increased where worshipers can listen either from the church speaker system or on their car radios at a designated frequency. They’ll also be able to receive communion without getting out of their car.
The changes have added more to job descriptions.
“The priests will have to make sure because you can easily skip a whole row or two of cars knowing where everybody is. So, that’s kind of our job,” Leo Maxfield, Novena Usher Coordinator at St. Ann’s Basilica.
Antoinette Gorecki is a parishioner at the basilica and usually helps out at the novena food stand but that won’t be open this year. With all the cancellations, Gorecki says she is just glad the novena will still be going forward even with changes.
“It’s such a prayerful time not just for myself but for so many other people. You know, I’m always telling St. Ann she’s got so much to do because so many people ask for her help,” Gorecki said.
Worshipers will be able to stand or sit on church grounds as long as they follow safe practices. There will also be no 7:30 p.m. novena mass except on the Feast Day.
“People will be welcome to come and do something that’s been meaningful to them almost their whole life and they’ll be able to continue to do it even in the midst of this dreadful period of pandemic,” Burke said.