By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
SOLON — Thanks to technology, Sabrina Heiderscheit was able to participate in the baptism of her goddaughter Braelyn Neff remotely. A member of the National Guard, Heiderscheit, has been stationed in Qatar since May 2020.
Dawn Neff, mother of Braelyn, said due to COVID-19 restrictions, the baptism occurred after Mass at St. Mary Church on Jan. 17 with a limited number of family members present. To safely accommodate her “large family,” the parish arranged for a live video conference of the baptism — a first for the parish.
Heiderscheit, sister of Braelyn’s dad, Justin, was unable to come stateside because of military duties. Qatar is nine hours ahead of Solon.
“In short, it meant the world to me,” Heiderscheit told The Catholic Messenger. “I was actually there where everyone could see me, and I could see the whole ceremony. It was as close to being there as I think I could’ve felt, and I’ll be forever grateful that it was possible in such a way.”
“Video calls aren’t new by any means, and I’m not saying I’m thankful for the situation the world has been put in, but I can’t deny the gratefulness I feel for the ways people have adjusted and made opportunities like this that much more accessible and inclusive,” Heiderscheit said.
When Dawn and Justin Neff first asked Heiderscheit to be the godmother, “it was very emotional,” Dawn Neff said. During the baptism, “it was so exciting to see her on screen and to hear us. We were truly blessed.” Father Charles Fladung, pastor of the Solon parish, noted that a proxy was needed since Heiderscheit was not there in person. But, she is still considered a godparent. The other godparent, Dawn’s sister, Kimberly Reinert, was on site.
Braelyn’s great grandparents, Jerry and Joan Gaul, and uncle, Ted Ehrlich, participated remotely.
Dawn Neff said having her grandparents “present” was very important to her. “They were not going to miss the baptism of their great grandchild.” The gown that Braelyn wore was handmade and has been worn for five generations.
Father Fladung said the parish’s ability to host events remotely has evolved since the pandemic began in March of 2020. At that time, he used an iPhone to livestream Mass. The parish then switched to a portable camera, “but the sound was not good.” So they broadcast the sound through another form of technology, but the “picture quality was poor.” After much research, the parish found a new camera that had good picture and sound quality. “But the bracket was too short.” So one was made.
The current camera can swivel, turn and zoom in and out. Because of this, Father Fladung was able to turn it to the back of the church to the baptismal font for Braelyn’s baptism. “It was so amazing,” to have the baptism in person and have Neff family members watch it online, he said.
Father Fladung noted that parish office manager, Nichole Wander, took photographs during the ceremony which show both the in-person and remote audiences. “It’s a keepsake,” he said.