SUNNYSIDE — No Missals? No problem!
COVID-19 has been responsible for mostly sad news throughout the Diocese of Brooklyn, which has experienced deaths and numerous illnesses among the clergy and the faithful this year. But the pandemic is also leading to positive things, including some outside-the-box thinking at Queen of Angels Church.
The Sunnyside church has found a way to compensate for the fact there are no printed bulletins and no Missals in the pews due to safety precautions put in by the Diocese of Brooklyn to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Missals, in particular, could potentially become germ-spreaders because the books are handled by numerous parishioners on Sundays when people come into church at various times to attend Mass.
To the rescue came Juan Rodriguez, pastoral associate at Queen of Angels.
Rodriguez has developed a system of QR codes that allows parishioners to obtain information from the bulletin, read the Gospel, follow along as the readings are read aloud at Mass, and learn about new programs — by simply using their smartphones to scan. One of the QRs allows parishioners to make donations to the church.
“People don’t have to touch anything in the church. Their germs are kept to themselves,” Rodriguez told The Tablet.
QR (Quick Response) codes are two-dimensional barcodes that can be scanned with a smartphone, giving the viewer access to a world of information.
The codes are omnipresent and used in a variety of ways. Store owners use them in advertising to promote their latest sales and the MTA has codes at bus stops to tell riders how long they have to wait for a bus.
The beauty of QR codes, according to experts, is they can provide links to unlimited amounts of content, including a website’s URL, text, and PDFs. The codes can be updated and re-edited without having to change the pattern and without having to re-print or replace them.
QR codes have been placed on the pews inside Queen of Angels and Rodriguez is now in the process of educating parishioners on how to use the new system. So far, he has received positive feedback.
“As soon as I showed it to people, they were amazed. I have to keep promoting it. I think Gen Z kids will inspire their parents to use it,” he said.
Rodriguez has also made an instructional video that is posted on YouTube.
Queen of Angels has a sizable Latino population, so the codes contain links in both English and Spanish. Rodriguez said the system could lead to greater participation in church life by putting information on parish happenings at parishioners’ fingertips.
Rodriguez got the approval of Father Brian Dowd, the church’s pastor, to get the ball rolling.
“I told the pastor, ‘I have an idea, but I don’t know if you’re going to buy it,’ ” he said.
Rodriguez, who works on faith formation and youth ministry programs at Queen of Angels, credits his 12-year-old daughter, Liliana Maria Rodriguez, with the idea.
“She saw me doing work on the parish website one day and I guess the idea came to her,” he said.
“I just said, ‘Why don’t you put in a QR code?’ ” Liliana told The Tablet. She suggested that her dad “put it someplace where people can see it.”
Liliana, a seventh-grader at St. Sebastian Catholic Academy, Woodside, was amused by his reaction: “He was very surprised. He never thought I would say that.”
“It was a shock to me,” Rodriguez admitted, but Liliana planted a seed. “We’re testing it out. We’re getting the word out to parishioners.”
For Rodriguez, the QR code system is proof that there are vast possibilities for technology in the church.
“People purchase smartphones and they have no idea of all the things the phone can do,” he said.