By Adam Duxter

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — For the first time in three years, parishioners in the Twin Cities were able to celebrate Easter with a full congregation. At the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, thousands showed up to four services Sunday.

“People are coming in and they’re like, ‘This is my first time back, this is so exciting,’” said Johan Van Parys, who serves as the director of liturgy for the church. “We have gone through this period of time where we all felt so isolated. We couldn’t do anything. We had to stay home. We couldn’t do sports, we couldn’t go to church. Now to be able to do that is such a relief.”

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(credit: CBS)

Van Parys said the message the church hoped to share Sunday was one of hope.

“Life is victorious over death. Light is victorious over darkness. And so it gives us hope, it sort of pulls us out of our bit of misery, and we can do better,” he said.

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People who attended Sunday’s Easter service say having the chance to celebrate the holiday as a church family has a significant impact on them.

“I appreciate the resurrection, but more importantly I appreciate the fact that (Jesus) did something for me,” said Tom Nicoski of Minneapolis. “To know somebody loved me that much, that He’d go through the process.”

“Easter is a time to celebrate rebirth and growth,” said Eric Ament. “And try to redirect yourself and call in the meaning of the new season.”

While the past two years have presented several challenges, Van Parys says he’s hopeful that this Easter can serve as a reminder hope can still be found.

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“With everything going on in our world and our personal lives, it’s very easy to feel bogged down and to slip into negativity. I think the gift of hope is what all of us are actually longing for,” he said.

Adam Duxter