By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News
A multi-faith, inclusive online vigil to mark the first anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic will be held March 11, organized by a diverse group of Saskatchewan citizens.
It was on March 11, 2020 that the World Health Organization designated the COVID-19 virus a global pandemic, explained committee chair Blake Sittler, Executive Director of the Catholic Health Association of Saskatchewan.
Entitled “Together in Remembrance, Together in Hope,” the virtual vigil to mark this anniversary will be held at 7 p.m. CST, Thursday, March 11, available via Zoom and live-streamed to YouTube, with links and registration accessible at: www.covidvigil.ca
“This vigil is an opportunity for us in Saskatchewan to virtually participate in an event that reminds us we are not alone and we’re going to make it,” said Sittler.
The idea for the vigil began with a conversation Sittler had with a friend several months ago. “She said that at the one-year mark she hoped the province or someone would mark the occasion somehow. We sent out an invitation through an ecumenical and inter-faith contact list and were pleasantly surprised to receive responses from about 20 individuals who were interested.”
The event will include prayers from various religions, songs from Metis, First Nations and local musicians, and a candle-lighting ceremony, as well as a video about what people from Saskatchewan are looking forward to again.
Marking this particular anniversary will fulfill a human need, said Sitttler. “Human beings are meaning-making machines – we desire rituals – and this isn’t just for people of a particular religion,” he said. “People need to do things together to mark major events so they can make sense of their role in it and hear from other people. It is healthy and necessary to mourn together and to celebrate together. This is such an occasion.”
Other members of the planning group also reflected on the importance of marking the pandemic anniversary in some way.
“Over the past year, each of us has experienced varying degrees of loss and isolation,” noted Karla Combres, a Life-Cycle celebrant. “As much as this pandemic has kept us all physically apart, it has also shown us how connected we are — to each other, to our wider communities, and the world.”
“Covid-19 has hit our Indigenous communities very hard,” added Indigenous knowledge-keeper Lyndon Linklater in a media statement about the event. “We have lost friends, leaders, acquaintances and family and it is so true that we are all in this together. On March 11, we will join the Vigil to remember and to foster hope. Let’s all do this! Hai, hai, Meegwetch!”
Krishan Kapila, a member of the Hindu community, shared in this hope: “For this event, we are gathered here in solidarity to bereave, pray and promote people to live in harmony as a family.”
Robert White of the Saskatoon Baha’i Community grounded the idea of connection to the provincial motto: “The diverse program aims to bolster our strength at this one-year mark and is in keeping with Saskatchewan’s motto, ‘From Many Peoples Strength’.”
Sittler noted that the planning committee is striving to make it as easy as possible for people to tune in to the virtual vigil online: “Just go to our website at www.covidvigil.ca and click on the Zoom registration link and within a minute the person should receive a link to click on March 11.”
Sittler said he wished there had been more time to plan in order to make the event even more inclusive. “I know there will be people and groups who will have been open to help organize this, but we simply had to work with who we had. The blessing is that so far the committee members have been very generous with their time and very understanding that no one group will be front and centre. We wanted this event to be something that everyone in Saskatchewan could attend and feel they were a part of it.”
Given the impact and the losses associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the virtual vigil is “a very modest offering,” acknowledged Sittler.
“So many people have lost so much—whether a family member or friend or a business–and sacrificed so much, like the many front-line workers. This vigil is a small moment when people can gather, light a candle, hear from a few different people and just remind themselves that they are not alone and there is hope for the near future.”