PROVIDENCE — In the midst of growing concerns over the coronavirus (COVID-19), locally and around the world, and now following Bishop Thomas J. Tobin’s directive that all public Masses be suspended in the Diocese of Providence until further notice, pastors are proving that technology will assist in bringing people spiritually closer to each other and to God as members of the same Body of Christ during this unchartered time in the Church.
This past weekend, many pastors throughout the state made preparations so that Catholics could connect with their parish through high speed connections at home — live streaming the celebration of Mass over the internet and onto the screens of the faithful.
Many parishes have offered this important service for years for the homebound, for those in the military wishing to join their family for Mass from across the world, and even in the case of dangerous blizzard conditions. Now, as the faithful are asked not to gather in person in order to prevent the spread of the virus, live streaming the Mass is more vital than ever.
On Sunday, Father Adam Young, pastor of St. Paul Church in Cranston, set up a live stream of a Mass he offered via the parish Facebook page that logged close to 200 viewers throughout the Mass.
“It was moving for me to know that we still prayed together as a parish family even though we were separated physically,” Father Young said. “People were typing their responses to the Mass in the comment section of the livestream. Our bond with Jesus in the Eucharist and each other was very tangible. People desire to glorify God, especially through the Mass. I am happy that in the midst of this time of sacrifice, Mass online can give at least a little comfort. Many parishioners sent me pictures afterward of their family gathered around the computer screen to pray along with us at church. I will continue to livestream a private Mass at 9:30 a.m. every Sunday until the quarantine is lifted so that our parishioners and anyone who wishes will be able to pray along.”
In Tiverton, Father Jay Finelli, pastor of Holy Ghost Church, celebrated Mass for those at the parish, but saved a virtual seat for those watching from home. His live stream, now archived, has since seen close to 600 views.
Many grateful for the opportunity to watch from home wrote comments including, “Thank you, Father. A great gift;” “Thank you so much for thinking of the home bound.” “Truly a blessing!”
At St. Patrick Church in Providence, Masses in both Spanish and English were offered on the web as well as in person last weekend. Father Nicholas P. Smith, senior priest, offered many comforting words and offered up the Mass for all those who are fearful.
“It’s amazing to me that in a world that seemingly cannot agree on anything, it is so united on its reaction to the coronavirus presently sweeping its way through all of the nations including ours — We are united worldwide in fear. But because we are united we are able to deal with that fear so much better. The pandemic like we are experiencing can scare us at our very roots. We are forced to live without things that we take very much for granted and never thought that we could live without. Things like sports, entertainment, maybe even household goods that are no longer available. We all have adjustments to make for the absence of those things. I’m confident we will manage that well. The deeper issue is that we are all social beings. We need one another for life to go on with any measure of peace and harmony.”
Father John Codega, pastor of St. Brendan Church said that on a normal weekend, the parish may have about 30 viewers. This past weekend, there were about 300 total of the three Masses livestreamed online.
“I know a number of families that brought computers or other devices to their elderly parents, so they could watch our live Masses,” said Father Codega. “And I made sure to reference the ‘viewers at home’ a couple of times during the Mass to make them know that they were part of our community. Just before the distribution of Holy Communion, I reminded them that it was not a time to get up and go to the refrigerator for a snack, but perhaps a time to make a spiritual communion with their families at home — to stay in their living rooms and pray together in silence for a few minutes.”
Given Bishop Tobin’s latest directive, Father Codega will celebrate the 5 p.m. Mass live.
St. Thomas More Church and St. Veronica Chapel Masses from this past weekend received nearly 1,300 total views. Father Marcel Taillon, pastor, said that his professional streaming service “has changed everything.” The Narragansett parish will continue to offer a streamed Mass on the weekend as well as weekday celebrations at 9 a.m.
“It’s a virtual family of liturgy,” said Father Taillon. “It helps people not feel so isolated. It’s an amazing gift we have to connect with people. They watch their own priest, they see their friends and family members. It’s very, very personal. We have a funeral at the parish and just the family will come, but friends will be able to watch online.”
Father Taillon said that he and Father John C. Halloran, pastor emeritus, have been receiving emails from people watching their parish live stream from around the country, even as far as Alabama. He shared that he received a touching email from a woman living in Vermont, who due to many health issues, cannot attend Mass in person.
“She found out that we were live streaming and said she didn’t know she could do this. It was very moving. We’ve received lots of positive feedback.”
Father Taillon said that now is a time for spiritual charity — to pray for those who are ill and for those who care for the sick. He also encouraged people to not watch the news 24-7, but instead seek spiritual resources, such as the parish mission available online.
As stressful as the current pandemic may feel, Father Taillon says the world should not give up hope, and he is confident that a lot of good will come from this situation, especially during this season of Lent.
“I think this could be the best Lent we have ever had. We just have to not be afraid. It’s a time for prayer. We are all on this cross with coronavirus. It is about not leaving Jesus at the cross. There is a virtual community out there, but we need God. He can use technology to bring about some kind communion. I am so grateful that people can still pray with us.”
Find Upcoming Masses Online
CatholicTV is offering daily online Mass during the COVID-19 pandemic. Viewers can easily watch daily Masses from the CatholicTV chapel. Mass is offered in English every day from Sunday to Friday and Mass is offered in Spanish every Sunday: www.watchthemass.com.
The Diocese of Providence offers a listing of Masses available on television as well as local parishes streaming their Masses. This list will be updated as the diocese becomes aware of more local parishes live streaming Mass online: www.dioceseofprovidence.org/news/fyi-television-masses for more information.