April 3, 2020

Online Masses help priests continue to connect people to God

By John Shaughnessy

Father Chris Wadelton offered an interesting personal perspective as the archdiocese and many parishes across central and southern Indiana provide online Masses in response to the coronavirus crisis.

First, he acknowledged the challenge of not being able to celebrate Mass with his parishioners in the pews.

“I don’t think I realized how much I feed off the energy of the people during a Mass. When I am able to see people’s faces and their reactions, I can see I’m making a connection, and that motivates me.”

At the same time, he said he has received “a lot of good feedback” from people for the online Masses—five in English each week, three in Spanish—that he has celebrated since March 18, the day when all public Masses in the archdiocese were ended until further notice.

“The music director even provided some basic music, and people commented that it was a comfort to watch Mass from the church and hear the familiar music,” said Father Wadelton, pastor of St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus. “We have also expanded our Prayers of the Faithful to include more personal intentions, which also helps me and others to feel connected.”

Father Todd Riebe has been pleasantly surprised that many people have taken advantage of online Mass opportunities during this time.

“It points to a hunger in people for spirituality and a desire for that connectedness with God and with one another that parish life offers us,” said Father Riebe, pastor of Christ the King Parish and administrator of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, both in Indianapolis.

“It doesn’t matter that the quality of our online services will most probably not win any Oscars for technical achievement. What matters is that it brings us home to our parish. And we all know, ‘There’s no place like home!’ I think an increased use of technology at the parish level will be one of the blessings that will emerge from the present situation.”

Father Tony Hollowell shares an online Sunday Mass as the administrator of St. Paul Parish in Tell City and St. Mark Parish in Perry County. He said he misses the personal connection of celebrating Mass together with his parishioners in church.

“It is a real loss, but even in the midst of that loss, the Mass is very beautiful, because Christ remains truly present,” he said. Then he added, “I have heard from others that it does give them a sense of being connected, which in turn gives me a sense of being connected.”

While the coronavirus crisis has led to changing approaches in the Church, these priests say the heart of their lives are still focused on two goals: keeping their connection with their parishioners and keeping them connected to God.

“As a parish, we are trying our best to remain connected with as many people as possible, even if it is just a quick phone call, to let them know they are in our thoughts and prayers,” Father Wadelton said. “This has been nice.”

Father Riebe views this time as an opportunity to find a new path of faith to be there for others.

“When people ask me what I love most about being a priest, ‘people’ is always at the top of that list,” he said. “We priests are blessed beyond measure as people open their lives to us in the happiest of moments of their lives and in the most difficult of moments of their lives. Our days are literally filled with people.

“While the pandemic has necessarily closed some doors to us, it has opened others. A good part of my day is now spent on the telephone, and sending and responding to text messages and e-mails. By the middle of every day, I am recharging my cell phone. Where there is a will, there is a way.

“In these days, only caller ID can protect parishioners from their pastors!” † 

  

Related story: Priests offer a unifying message: ‘It is in times like these that our faith really shines forth’

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