COVID-19 forces attendance at Mass via a live stream
The spread of the Covid-19 virus has caused disruption of daily life throughout the nation. Large gatherings of people are not allowed in order to slow the spread of the virus. This includes attendance at Mass. Since people cannot attend physically, parishes have turned to technology to bring the faithful together. Some parishes have turned to live streaming their Sunday Mass via the internet.
Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, apostolic administrator for the Diocese of Buffalo, granted a dispensation from attending Mass on March 13. In a statement the bishop offered the dispensation to all Catholics of the Diocese of Buffalo from attending Sunday Mass and Holy Days of Obligation during the ongoing threat of the Covid-19 spread.
Several parishes already had streaming capabilities and the Office of Communications worked with them to share their capabilities with the larger diocese. The diocesan webpage compiled a list of parishes who could stream. This list of parishes was shared on the diocesan home page and social media.
Social Media Coordinator Nicole Dzimira set up the web link. “We set up a live stream list on March 13 in preparation for when the Coronavirus would be getting worse,” said Dzimira. “It was set up initially as an alternative for people who felt uncomfortable going to Mass so that they can still participate from home.”
Over the next few weeks staying home became everybody’s new reality.
“I only found a handful of parishes that were proactive with live streaming already, but slowly more parishes reached out to be included as they tried their hand in streaming,” said Dzimira.
Some parishes use social media sites like Facebook and Instagram to live stream.
“We’ve also included other alternatives like television and radio, or other national streaming websites for those who don’t use social media,” said
Overall the response was positive on social media.
“People are still sharing the links to the live streams,” said Dzimira.
Michael and Katte Ruszala watched the live Mass and posted how they celebrated together. The couple was taking extra precautions to avoid any virus because they are expecting a baby in April.
“Obviously it would have been nice to be there,” said Kate Ruszala.
The couple had a cross and candle and followed all the same gestures that would occur during Mass. “It made it a little more normal,” said Michael Ruszala. “The Covid-19 virus has caused great stress and anxiety to many and affected countless lives and families in regards to their health. As well as to employment, education, church practice and so much more,” said Father Sebastian Pierro, pastor of St. Amelia Parish in Tonawanda, during his Sunday morning streaming Mass.
Father Pierro said the live stream will allow him and Father Peter Santandreu to offer a “spiritual communion, so that Christ may come spiritually into your hearts.”
Saying Mass to an empty church did take some getting used to.
“There was nobody in the pews. It was an unusual experience,” said Father Leon Biernat, pastor of St. Gregory the Great Parish in Williamsville. Father Biernat has adjusted. He now looks into the camera rather than looking into the empty church. “I focus on that and think about the people who are watching,” he said.
While Father Pierro called for everyone to stay safe and to weather the social isolation, he did not shy away from parish needs. Namely the weekly donations the parish receives every Sunday.
St. Amelia’s is not alone. Parishes throughout the diocese have lost their fundraising abilities. Bingo and events designed to raise funds have had to be canceled or postponed due to the pandemic.
“All I ask as your pastor, is for everyone to do what they can,” Father Pierro said, asking his parishioners to mail in their weekly donations. The parish is also working on setting up a way for people to give online.
“I’m asking everyone to do their best and to consider mailing in their weekly or monthly contribution so that the ministry of St. Amelia can continue,” he said.
Father Biernat echoed Father Pierro’s sentiments. “This is a time that I ask that you really try to be as generous as you can,” said Father Biernat.
“My prayer for all of us is that we all work together sharing our gifts, talents, treasures and embrace the call of God. To help and care for each other daily,” said Father Pierro.
“As we face this crisis together I ask God’s blessings upon all of us so that strengthened, renewed and blessed we may do what we can to continue to share the faith, to live the gospel and build up Christ together in all we do.”
“God does not abandon his people,” said Father Biernat.