NEW YORK, N.Y. --
Social distancing made traditional Easter services a no-go April 12, but New York National Guard and Active-Duty service members working at the COVID-19 alternate care facility at Javits Convention Center still got a chance to receive Easter communion safely.
New York Air National Guard Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Jacob Marvel, 109th Airlift Wing, made sure anybody who wanted to receive communion that day had the chance.
While ensuring that social distancing protocols were followed, Marvel conducted an abridged Mass for each and every visitor to his temporary chapel at the convention center.
Members of the Unified Command at the hospital erected in the convention center, now called the Javits New York Medical Station, stopped by as their duties allowed to mark the holiest day of the Christian calendar.
“My goal was to provide spiritual support for people who needed it or wanted it,” Marvel explained. “We are in the midst of Holy Days for several religions and our spirituality is an important part of how we stay balanced in this crisis.”
“Communion is a reminder to Christians of the presence of God and Easter is our holiest day,” said Marvel. “We had 140 people come and receive communion.”
Marvel also ensured that non-Catholics had the opportunity to observe their faiths as well.
“We also had at least a dozen more stop in from different faiths – they came to light a candle or pick up matzo bread,” he said.
The Easter services were held in a room set up to provide a respite from the demands of caring for COVID-19 patients or supporting the Javits operation and dubbed the Gotham Resilience Center.
“It’s a room set up for everyone at the Javits,” said Staff Sgt. Nicholas Mancuso, Religious Affairs Airman from the 109th Airlift Wing, who is assigned to the Javits New York Medical Station.
“We provide a location where service members and defense supported civilian agencies can worship, find support for their religious needs, relax, meditate, or simply enjoy a cup of coffee,” he said.
There are 2,600 civilians, Active-Duty military, and New York National Guard members involved in operating the 2,000-bed hospital erected within the convention center.
Active military medical people are caring for about 300 patients, while the New York National Guard is coordinating administrative support and access control. New York state officials, employees and contractors are also involved in the effort.