London celebrations

A small but grateful Christmas gathering in a London church

Content of the article

At St. Michael’s Parish on Cheapside Street, nearly 100 people gathered inside for a quiet mid-morning Christmas mass as a record number of COVID-19 cases swept through London.


Content of the article

“We as a people have the community spirit. And so when we celebrate, it’s good to get together, even if the numbers are small, and to lift each other up with the hope that Christmas time brings ”, said Father Daniel Bombardier before the Catholic Saturday mass.

More than 120 people registered in advance for the 10:30 am service – including a family of 10 – but not everyone showed up. In accordance with the protocol established by the Diocese of London for the hundreds of Catholic churches in the area, parishioners were screened at the door for symptoms of COVID-19 and sat six feet apart.

“People are careful,” Bombardier said. “The church is very secure. We maintain the protocols requested of us.

The Middlesex-London Health Unit reported single-day COVID case records for three consecutive days this week, Wednesday through Friday, with counts of 228, 263 and 335, respectively. Officials have admitted they are struggling to keep pace with the spread of the virus – so those numbers are likely low.


Content of the article

There was no local update on the COVID-19 workload on Christmas Day. There have been no recent deaths from the virus, and the local death toll stands at 257.

All staff and volunteers in Catholic and Anglican dioceses are required to have their COVID-19 vaccine doses, but parishioners are not. Many local churches have offered online streaming options to parishioners throughout the pandemic.

Debbie Walsh, pastoral minister at St. Michael’s, said COVID has created “some frustration” but most people are “just really happy to come together.” While many feel safe from their vaccines, she said, others are nervous.

“We’re definitely tired,” Walsh said. “But I think something very unique about this parish is that it has a wonderful spirit. They feel called to the community.


Content of the article

The community aspect of one of the holiest days of the year attracted many parishioners to the Christmas morning of St. Michael’s Day.

“I feel absolutely safe. I wouldn’t miss that. I would be determined to go anyway, even if there were additional restrictions, ”said parishioner Teresa, who did not want her last name to be used.

Teresa said she goes to Mass at Christ the King every week, but with half-capacity restrictions on churches, she couldn’t book a seat there.

“I believe in God and I believe in everyone’s faith. So I think it’s nice to be together, especially on this most joyous occasion, ”said Teresa. “It’s actually very welcoming. It’s joyful.

Theresa O'Leary was tasked with screening parishioners as they arrived for Christmas Mass at St. Michael's Catholic Church on Cheapside Street in London.  Photo taken December 25, 2021. Serena Marotta / The London Free Press
Theresa O’Leary was tasked with screening parishioners as they arrived for Christmas Mass at St. Michael’s Catholic Church on Cheapside Street in London. Photo taken December 25, 2021. Serena Marotta / The London Free Press

Parish Council President Theresa O’Leary was one of 13 volunteers to screen visitors to St. Michael’s on Christmas Day. She described the devotees as “respecting the protocols” required.

With the few dedicated people who showed up, it was a quiet Christmas – much like last year, Walsh said.

“We miss families, little children don’t come anymore,” Walsh said, adding, “We will be back.”




Postmedia is committed to maintaining a vibrant but civil discussion forum and encourages all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour of moderation before appearing on the site. We ask that you keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications. You will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, if there is an update to a comment thread that you follow, or if a user that you follow comments. Visit our Community rules for more information and details on how to adjust your E-mail settings.