By Judith Costello
Joseph Moneymaker, 15, and his brother Ben, 11, have been “hired” by Father Paul Appel at St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in Davenport to post live-streamed devotionals on the parish’s Facebook page.
“The boys are so excited to be able to do this,” says their mother, Theresa Moneymaker. “As long as they keep up with their schoolwork, I’m happy they have this opportunity.”
The Moneymaker brothers have offered live-streamed daily devotionals and have role-played the Mass nearly every day since the COVID-19 pandemic surfaced in Iowa in mid-March.
“These two know the prayers of the Mass, many Novenas, the proper feast days and much more,” says Father Appel, the parish’s pastor. Before starting their ministry through St. Alphonsus, the boys shared videos on their own Facebook pages and received up to 600 views for one of their presentations. They also receive prayer requests through social media.
The Moneymaker brothers serve at two of the three parishes of which Father Appel is pastor – St. Alphonsus and Holy Family in Davenport. Both boys have attended All Saints Catholic School in Davenport. Joseph now attends West High School in Davenport. “They get the bigger picture about the priesthood,” Father Appel said. “You’ll see them correcting each other on the details of the Mass. They focus on prayer and sacramentals. The sense of mystery is present.”
In trying to live out the call to service, Ben spent the months of March through June caring for his grandmother. He lived apart from his family in order to assist the frail 89-year-old Elena Moneymaker. She had been attending daily Mass for years, so the quarantine was a real hardship for her. Ben found the local parish online and helped her watch live-streamed Masses on his iPad. Every day they would say the rosary together. The grandmother speaks only Spanish, so Ben often acts as her interpreter. She began creating chasubles, stoles and altar cloths for her grandsons when Joseph was 5 years old.
“Ben started this role-play when he was 4 and Joseph joined him,” their mother said. “Their grandma is from Mexico and she instilled in them a deep love for the priesthood and for the rosary.”
Joseph is more reserved about his faith but his mother says he set an alarm clock in order to watch daily Mass in the early mornings during the time when people were advised to stay at home. “He is on the autism spectrum,” says his mother. “But Joseph loves his faith. When he had just finished first grade, we drove past a Catholic school and he pointed to it. ‘That’s where I want to go’ he told me. My husband and I have sacrificed to make that happen. Joseph said, ‘If I’m going to be a priest that’s where I need to be.’”
Father Appel remembers his own childhood. “I was eager to find out what really happens up there (at the altar) so I signed up to be an altar server and that made a difference for me. I know a lot of priests who role-played saying Mass like these two and that was a step toward discerning their vocations.”
The priest said he worries about young people today in the midst of a culture that he believes has done away with symbols of moral authority. “So it is truly refreshing to know these boys and see what they do.
”The boys have received guidelines on what can be posted for St. Alphonsus. “For his first video Joseph led the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and I’m saying the rosary in Spanish,” says Ben. “This is what we love to do.”
(Judith Costello, OCDS, has written for publications around the country, including Our Sunday Visitor. She also creates works of arts to celebrate faith.)