In Focus

Colaba Prayed For Cheer To Return To Christmas

By Manu Shrivastava

Holy Name Cathedral parishioner and St Francis Xavier's Chapel regular Cynthia D'Mello sums up the mood of the season as she says, "All of us have been longing for the Midnight Mass where we get to meet everybody. It's a big event. But now, with the COVID-19 situation and the curfew in place, that just wasn't possible. What I miss the most this year is the bonding and the warmth that we would share on Christmas."

BEDECKED: Cynthia D'Mello with her Christmas tree

A virtual mass just cannot replace physically meeting people, seeing each other, talking to each other. "Nothing can replace 'personal' bonding," says Cynthia who reminisces with a tinge of sadness, the days of yore when everyone would get to meet each other during Christmas and celebrate the season in unison.

"It's a matter of time before we go back to normalcy," says an upbeat Cynthia. "So, this Christmas, I will, like million others, pray for the Lord to help us bide over this calamity and bring back the cheer associated with Christmas," sums up the Chapel regular.

For 27 years in all, without a break, Joannette Remedios has been working at the St Francis Xavier's Chapel aka Blessed Sacrament Chapel at Colaba Post Office. That is, for all her life in Colaba, since marriage to Philip Remedios, son of the legendary Civil Engineer Anthony (Tony) Remedios when she moved from her family home at Divar Island in Goa.

JOYFUL: Joannette Remedios is thrilled to be back with her parish 'family'

Now, since the national lockdown, she has been away from the Chapel till it opened up on 29 November 2020. "For the first time, we are visiting the Chapel split up due to the COVID-19 restrictions," recalls Joannette on Christmas Eve, attending the 9 pm Mass. "I haven't missed a single Mass ever since they started last month. It's the only time I manage to meet up with everyone who has been forced to stay indoors for months on end," she says.

STAYING SAFE: Joannette checking the body temperature of a parishioner at St Francis Xavier's Chapel

"It's so sad to come to Mass especially on Christmas Eve and see just a handful of friends," says Geeta Nagar's Veronica Vellalum who has been coming to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel religiously for six years now. "What's worse is that during this time of the year, when families get together for Christmas, over dinner and pray together too, we have parishioners coming alone to the Chapel," she says. 

And, Veronica misses that the most. The togetherness that's associated with Christmas. The meals, the worshipping, the physical proximity associated with group prayers, particularly at this time of the year.

ALONE: Veronica Vellalum misses the togetherness of Christmas this year

To make things worse, at the Chapel too like elsewhere, parishioners cannot come close even during prayer. "Keep distance. Sit only on the sides of the bench," says volunteer John David to parishioners seated close to each other on a bench at the Chapel, just before the Mass begins. David has been associated with the Chapel "since 1986." 

SAFE DISTANCE: John David ensuring mass attendees maintain social distancing

"We have clear directives to ensure there's proper sanitisation, masks being worn at all times and social distancing throughout the Mass," he says.