FALL RIVER – The Lebanese community of the Grand Fall River will have a chance to come out of the pandemic together as St. Anthony of the Desert Parish hosts a Mahrajan, a traditional festival, in August.
“For a small community, they are really united. It is a wonderful community, ”said Bishop James Root, the church’s pastor.
Return to pre-COVID hours
Like other places of worship, the Maronite Catholic Church has had to practice its faith by being separated from other parishioners for more than a year due to the pandemic. They have moved on to holding all of their services, including Mass, Stations of the Cross, Novenas and Weddings via online broadcasting. Despite the challenges of the past 16 months, parishioners raised $ 20,000 to send to Lebanon, the cradle of Maronite Catholicism, according to Root, funds were especially important after a massive explosion at a Beirut port that rocked the country the year last. They also collected 300 gifts for children in need at Christmas.
“We stayed alive,” Root said.
Now, with the restrictions on gatherings in Massachusetts lifted, they are getting back into the mix.
The church recently completed major improvements to the church grounds, including replacing all grass and pavement, cutting down dead and decaying trees, and adding new underground and electrical wires. an irrigation system.
Root said the various projects cost around $ 800,000 in total. Last October, the church launched a fundraising campaign to fund the improvements. Amid the pandemic, parishioners donated nearly half of the money required in about a month.
“The parish was behind us all the time,” said Root. “These people are so dedicated.”
What is a mahrajan?
And in August, the church will host a Mahrajan, a traditional Lebanese festival that will feature Arabic and American music, folk dances, and food like kebabs, kibbeh, and shawarma. They expect more than 3,000 people to walk the three days, August 27-29.
The church usually held the event in June, but pushed it back because most pandemic restrictions were still in place last May.
“When it all reopened, we said ‘yalla’ (‘hurry up’ in Arabic), let’s go,” Root said.
While several St. Anthony parishioners contracted COVID-19, including one who was critically ill and temporarily on a ventilator, no church member of about 200 families has died from the virus. In a way, the August Mahrajan will be a sign that they are closing the book on the pandemic.
“Our prayers, in many ways, have been answered,” Root said.