'You can tell the difference': Attendees grateful for return of in-person Easter services

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- On a picturesque Sunday outside Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral in Raleigh, Bishop Luis Zarama delivered a message on the importance of gratitude, fitting after challenges over the past two years.

"Life has challenges. And the challenges are there to help us to grow as a person and to grow in faith," said Zarama.

In 2020, services were moved online, and in 2021 they were scaled down. But this year, overflow seating was needed both in the back of the sanctuary and lobby, and people showed up early for the 2:30 Mass, waiting as people left the 12:30 Mass.

"I think our faith has meaning when we share in-person our celebrations, and it's beautiful to see again our cathedral again with life. That was what was missing the two years prior to this," Zarama said.

Bobby Morgan has attended services at the church since 2001.

"It almost feels like it's a complete reunion. And I feel like I've almost been baptized again," said Morgan.

Outside the service itself, Morgan noted the ability to spend time with others after the service was impossible to replicate online; Friday, other faith leaders shared similar sentiments.

"People are excited to be back together. You can tell the difference. People are congregating before and after church service," Morgan said.

Zarama urged attendees to appreciate life and peace while discussing the ongoing fighting in Ukraine.

"Pray for the ones that are suffering violence, innocent people who without any reason, they are suffering the problem of war. And we need to pray for them. But the best way to pray for them is first in the spirit of gratitude, and with the spirit of gratitude pray for the ones who are suffering the lack of peace," Zarama said.

Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral offered five services, beginning at 6:30 a.m., and running every two hours. Three of the services were in English, two were in Spanish, and services at 8:30, 10:30, and 12:30 p.m. were streamed on the church's YouTube page for those unable or not comfortable returning in-person. Inside, masks were optional and hand sanitizer stations were set up in the lobby.
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