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By Malie Hudson

This Lent, parishes in the Diocese are making great efforts to meet the spiritual needs of their parishioners, virtually and in-person, while also keeping with state regulations.

Traditionally during the Lenten season, parishes would host in-person Rosary groups, Stations of the Cross and penance services, parish retreats and missions. However, this year is a different kind of Lent.

St. Christopher of the Desert Mission in Joshua Tree is offering virtual only Stations of the Cross services. The parish urges its parishioners to join them online to pray together at 6 p.m. every Friday.

“We were going to do a Zoom (session) but a lot of our people don’t do that. We’re an older community,” said Mary Agre, parish secretary/bookkeeper. “Getting them to go to the website is a challenge but it will be completely virtual until things loosen up a little bit. For now, it’s just difficult.”

San Bernardino mountain parishes opted to offer in-person Stations of the Cross services due to the size of their membership and worship space, which made it easier to allow for indoor services while also following state regulations that require masks, social distancing and hand sanitizing stations.

Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Lake Arrowhead offers a video series on the history of the Divine Mercy after the Stations of the Cross service every Friday. The series prepares parishioners for Divine Mercy Sunday, celebrated the Sunday following Easter.

“We’re doing in-person because we don’t get a lot of people for the size of our church so we’re still able to do the social distancing and have the stations inside while people stay where they are and follow Father as he processes around the church for each station,” said Gigi Horan, Co-Director of Catechetical Ministries.

St. Anne’s Parish and Retreat Center in Running Springs is no different.

“We only have 50 families in all. This week we only had four people that came so not everyone comes. Since our church is small and we have elderly, for now, we just have the Stations of the Cross on Friday nights,” said Theresa MacDonald, parish director and retreat facilities director.

Prior to the pandemic, the parish retreat center hosted retreats year-round on its 22-acre mountain property overseeing the Inland Empire.

“We have not had a retreat here for a year now. We’re waiting to hear word for when we could open up for small groups to come in but it’s hard,” said MacDonald. “We’re hoping more or less that the retreats will really start booming in July because maybe everyone might have their vaccine by then.”

St. Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Community in Beaumont and St. Frances of Rome in Wildomar are also offering in-person Stations of the Cross services in English and Spanish.

“We also have a reservation system so we can keep track of our numbers for indoors,” said Leslie Aceves, parish secretary at St. Frances of Rome. Currently, regulations restrict indoor services to 25 percent maximum capacity.

St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta Parish in Winchester is also offering in-person Stations of the Cross and utilizing a variety of digital resources to enhance the Lenten experience for parishioners.

The parish is offering a free course on Bishop Robert Barron’s “The Sacraments” through the platform Flocknote. Monsignor Tom Burdick, Pastor, hosts the course through Zoom every Monday.

“The attendees are going to view the Sacrament program one session at a time. Then I would embellish it with scriptures and put each Sacrament in the context of Lent,” said Monsignor Burdick.

Andres Rivera, a seminarian intern at the parish, is assisting with leading two additional Lenten activities: Spanish Lenten Mission and the Tenebrae service.

“For the Spanish Mission, the parish is a multicultural parish,” said Rivera. “One of the great needs of the Hispanic community is that they yearn for a sense of community and also for formation. They want to learn more, and they want to deepen their relationship with God. Part of that is knowing more about God.”

The overall theme of the mission is God’s mercy and will be offered over the course of three days on Zoom. The three-day mission culminates with an in-person penance service, which will be available to the entire parish and will be held both indoors and outdoors.

The Tenebrae service is scheduled for the Wednesday of Holy Week and will be live streamed.

“Tenebrae is an older tradition that recently has been revived at certain parishes,” said Rivera. “I decided to introduce this to parish for the first time. Its going to be an adaptive service where we focus on some of the more sorrowful psalms and selections from the book of Lamentations. It gives the sense of the Church in mourning over the Passion of Jesus.”

Traditionally the Tenebrae is done in the darkness of the early morning. But for this particular service, the church will be dimly lit with seven candles. After each selection of readings, one of the candles is blown out until one candle is left lit to symbolize Christ the Light. Msgr. Burdick and Rivera plan to include pre-recorded meditative music.

Malie Hudson is a freelance writer based in Riverside.