By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
Like many priests, the suspension of public worship due to the COVID-19 pandemic left Father Bernie Weir feeling unsure of how to reach out to his flock. Celebrating liturgy with the faithful “is who and what we are,” said Father Weir, the pastor of St. James Parish in Washington. “Then, all of a sudden, what we do and what we are is not possible. I wasn’t finding myself in an identity crisis but more so wondering, ‘What do I do?’”
After seeing a Facebook live stream of diocesan priest Father Guillermo Trevino, Jr. celebrating Mass, Father Weir decided to reach out to his friend and learn how to do it himself. With each passing day, Father Weir has become more comfortable with the format and with his current limitations as a priest due to the pandemic. “I’m still celebrating with the community. I know they are there, it’s just that I can’t see them at the moment.”
Since the Diocese of Davenport announced the suspension of public Masses on March 16, more priests and deacons are turning to social media as a way to celebrate liturgy and pray with their parishioners.
Father Trevino, parochial vicar of St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City, St. Joseph Parish in West Liberty and St. Bernadette Parish in West Branch, was among the first priests in the diocese to use Facebook Live to stream Masses. Viewers can either watch and listen in real time or watch the video later. While it isn’t ideal — people watching cannot receive the Eucharist — feedback has been positive. “This is a strange time but we have to do (what we can),” he said.
Loxi Hopkins, a volunteer in the diocesan Social Action office, replied in the comment section of one of Father Trevino’s videos, “It was uplifting to be able to share Mass with you, even as a stream. Thanks for doing this.”
Erin Hagerman, a member of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport, has watched Father Trevino’s Masses, as well as those celebrated by her pastor, Father Jake Greiner. “One thing I was worried about was missing Mass during this time. This has given me much comfort,” she said.
Several priests who live stream daily Masses observe that more people view the videos than attend under normal circumstances. They believe this is because people who work during the day can watch the videos online at any time.
Maureen Vasile, a member of St. Thomas More Parish in Coralville, appreciates priests such as her pastor, Father Chuck Adam, “for enabling us to go to Mass daily, even if it is from home.”
Diocesan technology director offers advice
Rob Butterworth, diocesan director of technology, said live streams are a great way for clergy to connect with their parishes. However, as more people are required to stay at home, more people will be using the internet for entertainment and work, which may lead to a slower signal. He recommends setting all live streams to “standard definition,” and making sure that people can still access the video after the live stream is done.
For an updated list of parishes offering live streams and videos of Mass visit http://www. catholicmessenger.net/2020/03/ list-of-parishes-offering-facebook-live-streams-videos/