Parishes use various means to stay connected with parishioners during pandemic
While social distancing and concern about the spread of the COVID-19 virus has prompted the Diocese of Burlington to suspend public celebrations of the Mass, parishes throughout the statewide Diocese are finding creative ways to keep in touch with parishioners, some using more technology-based ways and others using more traditional ways.
From podcasts and putting Masses on Facebook pages to checking in with parish members via telephone, Vermont’s Catholic communities are staying connected with the faithful.
The Essex Catholic Community has an outreach to people who are isolated at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff is sending the online weekly bulletin and regular emails to some 1,000 households. Besides messages from the pastor, Fr. Charlie, Lenten hymns sung by one of our music ministers, Jeff Firlick, have been sent. (Access here youtube.com/watch?v=wfIdaG5PThA&feature=youtu.be.)
The parish is offering online free online Lenten resources from Word on Fire, form.org and Dynamic Catholic for the spiritual nourishment of those at home. The religious education staff, is offering online religious education material for each age group so that faith formation will continue.
Members of the Essex Catholic Community also are organizing wellness telephone calls to more than 1,600 households to check on parishioners. They have already organized a team of over 20 people to get this job done. Emma Goff, religious education coordinator for St. Pius X Church in Essex Center, and John McMahon, confirmation director at St. Pius X Church and faith formation director, for Holy Family St. Lawrence Parish in Essex Junction, coordinating the effort. “We want to make sure that our faith community remains strongly connected during this time of isolation,” McMahon noted.
“Everyone is encouraged to keep holy the Sabbath by watching online and televised Masses and uniting themselves to Christ and one another in a spiritual communion,” commented Edmundite Father Charles Ranges, pastor of the Essex Catholic Community.
Also, Goff created a form so that people can pray for their community: bit.ly/ECCprayers.
Edmundite Father Stanley Deresienski and Father Daniel Jordan pastor and parochial vicar, respectively, of five parishes in Franklin County, are live streaming Sunday Mass at St. John the Baptist Church in Enosburg Falls and All Saints Church in Richford on their respective Facebook pages. They also live-stream daily Masses, as do a number of parishes.
And like other parishes, they publish bulletins on their parish web pages and leave hard copies in church for those who come for private prayer.
St. Anthony Church in White River Junction has in place a plastic, covered box that is accessible 24 hours a day. It is located on an open but covered porch area outside the parish office. The weekly bulletin available therein. This is part of the parish’s efforts to make sure that parishioners stay connected with the most current information, especially with rapidly\changing events.
St. Francis of Assisi Church in Windsor has been using the parish website and Facebook to get messages out and began a special account to send regular email updates out from the pastor, Father Charles “Rick” Danielson. “People have really resonated with these heartfelt messages from him,” Christine Porter said.
At St. John Vianney Church in South Burlington, Father Timothy Naples, pastor, has edited the parish website frequently and put up pertinent links, promoted other priests’ video Masses on Facebook and begun to record Sunday sermon podcasts of his own. (See stjohnvianneyvt.org/live-stream-masses.)
St. Peter Church in Vergennes and St. Ambrose Church in Bristol are recording two weekday Masses and one weekend Mass and uploading them to their vermontcatholic.org websites as well as links to good spiritual resources.
At Most Holy Trinity Parish in Barton, Father Curtis Miller, administrator, films his now-private daily Masses and posts them to the parish website and YouTube at mostholytrinityparishvt.com and youtube.com/channel/UCrK0KCr36t6dXoRF6OQUWQA/featured. His Sunday homilies are available as PDFs on the parish website.
Ways parishes are reaching out through technology during the pandemic include a video on the Cathedral of St. Joseph website that was made from the Stations of the Cross on March 13. It is available on the parish website: stjosephcathedralvt.org.
Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne is using online videos to offer prayers, reflections on scripture readings and homiletic thoughts for those unable to attend daily Mass. “Doing things on line is a way for us to maintain community,” he said in one video.
He noted that he saw a sign in Burlington that alerted drivers of “rough road ahead.”
“All I could think of was, boy isn’t that sign saying a lot,” he said. “In our life here in the U.S. and world while we respond to the outbreak of the virus there is rough road ahead, but we continue to trust in the Lord.
Find more of his reflections at vermontcatholic.org/about/office-of-bishop/dailyreflections.
The Diocese is live-streaming daily Mass at 12:05 p.m. and Sunday Mass at 10 a.m.: vermontcatholic.org/news/communication/tv-mass.
The Catholic Center at the University of Vermont in Burlington is supporting students during these unprecedented times by offering daily and Sunday Mass via Facebook Live at 10 a.m.
On Monday through Thursday, the rosary is recited via Facebook Live at noon. On Wednesday at 3 p.m. the Stations of the Cross are offered via Facebook Live, and on Fridays students, faculty, staff and community members are encouraged to tune into Our Lady of Perpetual Help Radio to listen and reflect on the Stations of the Cross with Msgr. Richard Lavalley at noon and 7 p.m.
The Catholic Center staff also has Zoom online meetings with students once a week as a check- in to hear about their week and offer support and encouragement.
Also, they added a Zoom meeting to check in with alumni and offer them support and encouragement.
For more about what parishes are doing to stay connected during this pandemic, visit their websites.