By Steven Krolak
(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)–In a haunting and memorable ceremony, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz led the Easter Vigil at the Cathedral of the Assumption in Louisville, Kentucky.
Due to the ever-expanding spread of COVID-19 and state restrictions on public gatherings, the expansive Cathedral was empty except for a handful of readers and celebrants. But it was not devoid of music, thanks to four members of the cathedral choir, spaced to accord with social distancing guidelines. Among them was Jareth Gaddis, a vocal performance major at IU Southeast.
Gaddis is a member of the baritone section in both the Cathedral Choir and the Cathedral Singers.
For him, as for all Christians, Easter is the central moment of the liturgical year. To worship under the present circumstances was deeply bittersweet.
“I was ecstatic that I was able to worship the resurrection of Christ with my brothers and sisters in the Lord,” Gaddis said. “Yet it truly felt melancholic to meander around that massive, yet empty cathedral and be reminded of all the devoted Catholics who are unable to rejoice and come together in Christ physically during the most holy and celebratory week of the year.”
On March 16 the Archdiocese of Louisville suspended all public liturgies in its local church. Private masses have been offered, and Sunday liturgy has been live-streamed on the Cathedral website.
The Easter Vigil proceeded according to tradition. The choir performed mass settings for after Lent, along with settings of Psalm 104, Isaiah 12 and Exodus 15. In addition, they presented Easter anthems such as “Walk on With Jesus and “Jesus Christ is Risen Today.”
For Gaddis and the choir, the distancing and the lack of fellow choristers–to say nothing of the missing congregation–were challenging, but the final result was a testament both to their devotion and musical training.
“Even though I was doing something I did every Sunday, doing it alone was a bit stressful,” Gaddis said. “Flexibility is a virtue that I was glad to possess during this time.”
The virtual Vigil was a way for congregants to experience some form of communion, and to demonstrate their faith in rebirth and renewal during a time of anxiety. For Gaddis, a Christian who is not Catholic, it was a time to help bring solace to all, regardless of their faith tradition.
“Preparing for this service was more disorganized than it usually is, for evident reasons,” Gaddis said. “But patience and understanding that no one has all the answers and that we’re all trying to work through this together really helped ease my worries.”