New weekend in the UAE: expat families are grateful to be able to attend Sunday masses – News


A number of churches have either postponed their services or opened more slots

Photo by Neeraj

By SM Ayaz Zakir

Published: Sun Jan 23, 2022 4:54 PM

For many expats who grew up going to church on Sundays in their home country, the new weekend in the UAE was a gift.

Sharon Mae Salazar, a Filipino resident, had been attending Friday Mass at St Mary’s Church for nine years. “It was a big adjustment when I was new here in the UAE. I was raised Catholic so Sunday Mass was always very special to me, but because of my job I didn’t have haven’t been able to go in years,” she said.

“When the new weekend started this year, I was relieved. Being able to hear the sermon on a Sunday makes me feel more at home here,” Salazar added.

Roberto Prado, an engineer in Dubai, is now grateful to finally be able to practice the “sacred family Sunday” he grew up with.

“Back home in the Philippines, Sundays are strictly family time, and the day is never complete without going to church. When we moved to the United Arab Emirates 15 years ago, we had to move this special day to Friday or Saturday. We are really grateful for the new weekend,” said Prado.

With more community members now able to attend Sunday Masses, many churches have either rescheduled their services or opened up more slots for the day.

At St Mary’s Church in Dubai, the number of people attending mass varied between 1,000 and 2,500 on Sundays. But from January 2 this year, weekend figures hit 10,000 to 15,000, with the majority of people attending services on Sundays instead of Saturdays, according to parish priest Fr Lennie JA Connully .

“Residents are thrilled and happy to come to church with family and friends on Sunday, as it is a very important day for us,” Father Lennie said.

St Mary’s Church now holds masses every hour from 6am to 9.30pm on the new weekend. The Philippine Mass, in particular, has been moved from Friday to Sunday at 12:30 p.m.

“We have put in place all the precautionary measures to keep people safe,” Father Lennie said. Services are also being streamed live on social media for worshipers who are extra careful amid the pandemic.

Dubai’s Mar Thoma Church in Jebel Ali has moved its masses to Friday, Saturday and Sunday. “We used to celebrate Mass on Thursday evening, Friday morning and Saturday morning. Now, for the convenience of our congregants, Masses are being held in accordance with the new working week,” said Abraham George, secretary of Mar Thoma Church in Dubai.

“We have mass in Malayalam on Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday morning. English Mass is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday evenings.

The church and community noticed more people showing up for Sunday services.

Expats Errol and Wilma said they attended virtual Masses last year because prior registration was required for congregants. “But after Christmas the doors opened without any registration, and strict Covid-19 protocols are being followed with limited capacity.”

The couple are now waiting for their friends to join them for masses.

“Their weekends could soon change. It will be just great to have our friends and family in church,” they said.


Another expat, Alisha Rodrigues, and her husband Royston are starting to change up their weekly routines.

“It took us some time to adjust to Saturday masses in Dubai when we moved here. With the change comes a new acceptance of going to church on Sundays and not Saturdays. Soon we will get used to new to Sunday Masses,” Alisha said.

A few churches still follow the old weekend schedule. The Church of South India and the Maranatha Full Gospel Church are holding their services in the Holy Trinity compound on Friday and Saturday, said Rejina, a choir member. However, she expects the schedules to change soon, in line with the new work week.

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