‘Coronavirus is strong, but our faith is stronger’: RI churches improvise during Holy Week


WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — The pews remain empty inside St. Benedict’s Church in Warwick, which is a tough adjustment for Father Robert Marciano.

“I’ve been a priest since 1983 and this is the first time in my lifetime, especially as a priest, that I’ve had no services,” he said.

Marciano’s church has been busy for the past couple of years. He invited Pastor T.J. DeMarco to hold his Presbyterian services at St. Benedict’s ever since Woodbury Union Church, located just up the street, burned down in 2018, even though his parish is Catholic.

Until recently, the two faith groups continued to worship under one roof, at different times, while construction crews worked to rebuild Woodbury Union Church.

Marciano said not being able to worship at his church during Holy Week, which began April 5, has been hard. He said so far, two St. Benedict’s parishioners and a priest have tested positive for COVID-19. One of the parishioners remains hospitalized in serious condition, while the other two are at home recovering.

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Gov. Gina Raimondo is asking for understanding during this trying time.

“Churches, unfortunately, have to remain closed and I will ask you to do the same and get creative,” she said. “Continue to worship, continue to pray, continue to find hope in your faith and in your faith communities, but do it in a safe way.”

While the churches wait for the pandemic to end and social gathering restrictions to be lifted, they are both bringing people together by offering virtual services online.

“We’re actually on three different platforms to try to accommodate all the needs,” DeMarco said.

Their methods appear to be working. Thousands of people have found a way to be alone, yet together, during these unprecedented times, according to Marciano.

“On Palm Sunday, on our school website, there were 1,500 hits and on our parish website there were 1,700 hits,” Marciano said.

“Coronavirus is strong, but our faith is stronger,” he added.

DeMarco said construction of the new Woodbury Union Church is on track to be finished by late June and so far, there have been no setbacks due to the coronavirus.

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