By Emily Drooby
PROSPECT HEIGHTS — The coronavirus pandemic has forced the Diocese of Brooklyn to come up with interesting and creative ways for church pastors and parishioners to stay in touch. With no public celebrations of the Eucharist taking place, parishes are employing a 21st Century solution to the sense of isolation brought about by social distancing.
Streaming Mass right into homes is the new normal during the coronavirus quarantine, and there are many ways to do it.
Parishioners like James Moises of St Teresa of Avila in Prospect Heights, said they are grateful for the opportunity to practice their faith, even if remotely. He tunes in for the Masses celebrated in Creole that air on NET-TV and stream online.
“I’m very grateful that we are able to access it online,” he told Currents News. “Even though we are not there in person, we are able to pray along, so I really appreciate it.”
Many parishes in the Diocese of Brooklyn are also now streaming the Mass on their Facebook pages. It’s a unique way for parishioners to stay connected to their home parish, especially during Holy Week.
The use of streaming services comes at a time when the coronavirus crisis is entering a new phase. In a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on April 6 that his New York PAUSE executive order, which forbids large public gatherings, will remain in place until at least April 29.
Father James Rodriguez has been streaming from St. Rose of Lima Church in Rockaway Beach, Queens.
“People do need to see a familiar face and their own pastor,” he said. “There’s something about the shepherd’s voice, so I wanted to make sure I was providing that.”
Sacred Hearts – St. Stephen in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, has also been streaming its Masses on Face-
book. This has helped parishioner Carolyn Zodda adjust to a world where she can’t go to Mass every day as she did before the quarantine.
“I am so grateful that I had this opportunity to view it on Facebook. It really had been a great source of comfort for me in these difficult times,” she explained.
While it might seem like pastors are fast becoming video stars, thanks to the popularity of the videos they are posting online, priests say they are focusing more on the way it can bring people together in troubled times.
“People have said how comforted they feel, especially hearing the voices of priests they know. It really is very humbling and also the realization that God uses many different things,” said Father William Sweeney, pastor of St. Francis DeSales Church in Belle Harbor, Queens.
St. Francis de Sales Church is seeing success with its videos, which pull in thousands of views and generate hundreds of comments.
Father James Cunningham, the parochial vicar of the parish, said he’s pleased with the results.
“To know that, that many people can take part and come together and pray, wow,” he said.
In addition to Masses, pastors are streaming live Q&As on Facebook to stay connected to the flock. That’s what people are looking for during this difficult time: connection.
“It is working, and it gets to those people who can’t access it,” said Marin Rodriguez.
She and her family watch the Holy Child Jesus Church via live stream. “There are different priests streaming at different times, and you can catch it anytime, I’m grateful.”
The tool also connects people from all over the world to the Diocese of Brooklyn, like Father Christopher Heanue’s family.
His cousin Colette, who lives in Ireland, has been watching him celebrate Masses at Holy Child Jesus Church in Queens.
“It’s been valuable for his relatives here in Ireland as well, we’ve been able to tune in and feel a little bit of a connection there as well,” she said.
But many parishioners say that while they love being able to participate in Mass from their home, it’ll never replace being at church.
“We do miss the personal contact, the ability to celebrate with others,” Holy Child Jesus parishioner Mildred Tully explained. “Let’s hope this subsides soon so we can get back to community worship. You don’t get to receive the actual Body and Blood of Christ, so it’s a spiritual communion.”
To read the latest updates regarding coronavirus concerns in the Brooklyn Diocese, go to https://thetablet.org/coronavirus.