OTTAWA -- As parishioners arrive for Sunday mass at St. Faustina Parish in Cumberland, the feeling of community hasn’t been lost.

According to the church, this is the only known drive-in Roman Catholic service in the region.

The church started offering the drive-in service earlier this month and, since then, demand has been growing.

Father Gerard Monaghan is the Pastor at St Faustina and says that although the service is not ideal, parishioners appreciate the opportunity to gather as a community even if it is in their cars.

“It’s the best that we can do. It’s not ideal, you don’t get any feedback, it’s not the same dynamic, obviously, but, ultimately, it’s about how we can actually reach and meet the needs of our people,” Father Monaghan said. “Those that come are very appreciative because this is a great source of support and strength in this time.”

Attendees must register online ahead of the service and, according to Father Monaghan, under the province’s regulations there is a limit of 50 vehicles, spaced two metres apart, where occupants are required to remain at all times. The service is broadcast live on an FM transmitter so everyone can keep their windows up and listen in.

Patrick Callahan is a volunteer at the church and helps guide cars before and after the service. He grew up in the church and says attending Mass is a must for him. He is happy to see people coming from all over the city to participate.

“Even though we are in vehicles at this point, you still have that camaraderie, that friendship, fellowship; it’s wonderful and it fills that need we all have to be tougher, especially in these times of the pandemic,” Callahan said. “It’s wonderful to have them all here.”

For parishioners like Julia Labross, being able to participate, albeit from her car, is a source of strength.

”We come together, we are not alone, we can still feel the community vibe and we get a Eucharist which is most important,” Labross said. “It’s a comfort, it’s a creative way to allow people to come together and worship.”

Father Monaghan says the parking lot will do just fine for now, but he is hopeful it won’t have to be for much longer.

“I’m usually at the door greeting everyone, taking the opportunity to catch up see how they are doing,” he said. “It’s not even close to being the same. It’s very distant.”