NEW YORK — Joy and togetherness were in the air on Christmas Eve as the faithful gathered for Friday night Mass.

"You do get a special feeling, having the community around you and being able to celebrate with family and actually being able to participate," said Bobby Shoule, who attended services with his family.

What You Need To Know

  • Mask wearing and other "common sense safety protocols" were enforced at American Martyrs Roman Catholic Church on Christmas Eve

  • St. John the Divine moved Christmas services online for the second year in a row

  • This Mass marked Bishop Robert J. Brennan's first Christmas at the helm of the Brooklyn Diocese

It was a feeling shared by dozens of parishioners at American Martyrs Roman Catholic Church in Bayside, Queens.

For Jennifer Yee, it was her family's first time back at church since the COVID-19 pandemic began and forced all Christmas celebrations to go virtual last year.

"Really different because now we're going all masked," Yee said. "We can't hug and kiss everybody, but at least we're all there together."

Countless families have had to alter their Christmas plans once again as the omicron variant of the coronavirus surges citywide. Even the world's largest cathedral decided to close its doors.

"The unfortunate timing of this emergency has forced many of us to reconsider carrying out those holiday traditions we value most," a spokesperson for St. John the Divine announced earlier this week. "Out of an abundance of caution, this year’s Christmas services will move online."

The Brooklyn Diocese says it's abiding by state guidelines by making masks mandatory in doors. A spokesperson also said, "We have reminded our parishioners that if they are not feeling well, or are caring for someone who is sick, they should not come to Mass and that is a legitimate reason for missing Mass."

Parishioners wear masks while attending Christmas Eve Mass on Dec. 24, 2021, at American Martyrs Roman Catholic Church. NY1/Eamon Reynolds.

Churchgoers did what they could to uphold their beloved holiday traditions by keeping themselves and fellow revelers safe.

"We feel very comfortable," Vincent Martin said. "We sit together on one bench and people try to maintain spacing and also everybody wears masks."

"It's also a booster for our spiritual life," Martin added. "We feel very happy and very good about it."

It was a particularly special Mass for Bishop Robert J. Brennan, his first Christmas at the helm of the Diocese serving Brooklyn and Queens.


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