Mar. 28—SHENANDOAH — St. Michael Ukrainian Catholic Church celebrated the Feast of Palm Sunday, called Flowery Sunday in the Ukrainian tradition, Saturday with the blessing of pussy willows and palms.
"We have the blessing of pussy willows and palms to celebrate our Lord's entry to Jerusalem," Monsignor Myron Grabowsky said.
At this time last year the church was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Winnie Mohutsky, of Shenandoah Heights, said Masses were still celebrated, but the parishioners were not able to attend in person.
"I feel good," Mohutsky said. "It's nice to be back."
The church is following health and safety guidelines including pews closed off to allow for social distancing and signs reminding people to wear masks.
Carol Kalavage, of Shenandoah, who works to clean the church, said cross stickers inside the pews mark where people can sit 6 feet apart. Kalavage also said regular weekly Masses have been held in person on Sundays, but not Saturdays aside from this week.
For Ann Swaldi, of Ringtown, attending Mass in person on Saturday was emotional. Swaldi said she had not been attending church during the pandemic because of health concerns, but after getting vaccinated, she was glad to be back.
"This is my life," Swaldi said. "I felt like I was missing out. I wasn't whole."
Swaldi said her family has been attending St. Michael's for years, and she has been active in traditions such as the Easter basket blessings. However, Swaldi said she will be moving out of state, so having the chance to return to church was important to her.
"We're going to be moving south, and I'm not sure if there will be a Ukrainian church," Swaldi said. "That would break my heart."
After blessing the palms and pussy willows, Grabowsky emphasized the value of prayer during these difficult times.
"We all need some kind of assurance in this world," Grabowsky said.
St. Michael's is holding Palm Sunday Masses at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, 8 a.m. Monday, 8 a.m. Tuesday and 9 a.m. Thursday. Holy Thursday Masses will be at 4 p.m. Thursday, 2 p.m. Friday and 3:30 p.m. Saturday. Easter Sunday Mass will be at 10:30 a.m.