New weekend in UAE: Expat families thankful now that they can attend Sunday masses

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

By SM Ayaz Zakir

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Photo by Neeraj
Photo by Neeraj

Published: Sun 23 Jan 2022, 4:54 PM

Last updated: Sun 23 Jan 2022, 10:59 PM

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

Filipino resident Sharon Mae Salazar had been attending masses on Fridays at St Mary’s Church for the last nine years. “It was a big adjustment when I was new here in the UAE. I was raised a Catholic, so the Sunday mass has always been extra special for me, but because of my work, I hadn’t been able to go for 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 grateful now that he can finally practise the ‘sacred Sunday family day’ he grew up with.

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

Given the rise in the number of community members who can now attend Sunday masses, many churches either rescheduled their services or opened up more slots for the day.

At St Mary’s Church in Dubai, the number of mass-goers used to range between 1,000 and 2,500 on a Sunday. But from January 2 this year, weekend figures hit 10,000 to 15,000, with majority of people attending services on Sundays instead of Saturdays, according to parish priest Father Lennie J A Connully.

“Residents are delighted and glad to come to church with their families and friends on Sundays, 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 Filipino mass, in particular, was moved from Friday to Sunday at 12.30pm.

“We have all the precautionary measures in place to ensure the safety of people,” Father Lennie said. Services are also being streamed live on social media for the faithful who are taking extra caution amid the pandemic.

Dubai Mar Thoma Church in Jebel Ali has shifted their masses to Friday, Saturday and Sunday. “We used to hold the mass on Thursday evening, Friday morning and Saturday morning. Now, for the convenience of our devotees, masses are held in line with the new workweek,” said Abraham George, secretary at Dubai Mar Thoma Church.

“We have a Malayalam mass on Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday mornings. The English mass is scheduled on Saturday and Sunday evening.”

The church and the community did notice that more people were now turning up for the Sunday services.

Expats Errol and Wilma said they had been attending virtual masses last year, as prior registration was necessary for church-goers. “But after Christmas, doors opened up without any registration, and strict Covid-19 protocols are being followed with limited capacity.”

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

“Their weekends may change soon. It will be just great to have both our friends and family at the church,” they said.


Another expat, Alisha Rodrigues, and her husband Royston are starting to shift 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 a Sunday and not Saturday. Soon enough, we’ll get used to Sunday masses again,” Alisha said.

A few churches are still following the old weekend schedule. The Church of South India and Maranatha Full Gospel Church hold their services in the Holy Trinity Compound on Friday and Saturday, said Rejina, a chorister. However, she is expecting the timings to change soon, in line with the new workweek.


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