As places around Buffalo and Western New York started to close last month because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it didn’t take long for the Buffalo Diocese to follow suit and suspend Mass and other functions at local Roman Catholic Churches. Almost immediately, I thought of the impact this would have on the lent and Easter. Everything from Stations of the Cross to Palm Sunday Mass to Blessing Easter Baskets to Easter Sunday Mass are not going to available for people to participate in person.
In 2006, BFA (Broadway Fillmore Alive) started promoting the tradition of visiting seven churches on Holy Thursday under the name One Night and Seven Churches. It was done in part to raise awareness of churches in the neighborhood while connecting people with the customs of their Polish ancestors who helped build these incredible houses of worship. A pamphlet was put together with a map of seven churches people could visit with explanation of the tradition. Each year since then, BFA has continued to publish a similar pamphlet. But like other Easter related church activities this year, churches will not be open on Holy Thursday.
I’ve spent some time trying to come up with an online version of One Night and Seven Churches this year. People have also offered some ideas as to what could be done, but between my own and other’s, nothing really felt right. It was a real struggle. I resigned myself to the thought that Holy Thursday would just come and go this year and I would just have to wait for 2021.
Some divine intervention struck today. If you don’t know, I am one of the organizers for a local group called Buffalo Mass Mob. We organize flash mob type events encouraging people to come to Mass at historic churches throughout the Buffalo Diocese. These are done as a way to showcase a historic church by giving people an opportunity to experience it in its intended purpose.
On the Buffalo Mass Mob Facebook page, Ellen Mika Zelasko, the publisher behind the Hello Buffalo blog, shared a link to a post on her blog about Seven Churches. After I read the post, I knew this was the something I was looking for to bring to others this year when we can’t visit Seven Churches on Holy Thursday.
This post is the first of eight in my series about the Catholic tradition of visiting Seven Churches on Holy Thursday. It serves as an introduction to the seven daily posts to follow. Each of those will be about a visit to one church, with the idea of the last post falling on Holy Thursday to complete the series.
It’s really great reading. I think you will like it. From what I read, the spirit of why Seven Churches are visited is really captured in Ellen’s personal perspective. Let’s take the journey with her.
Here’s the link to the first post. You can read more about Ellen Mika Zelasko on her site, as well.
Here are videos from One Night and Seven Churches 2010 and 2009.