After months of social distancing and mandatory quarantine due to the COVID-19 outbreak, pastors and the parishes they serve are getting creative in remaining connected to their flocks. You may have heard of the priest who decided to bring “all glory to God in the sky” — literally. With a pilot’s license and a small plane, he flew over an area in Italy heavily hit by the virus and “dropped” blessings.
While your parish may not have the resources to be so extreme, there are plenty that have been thinking outside the box lately with ways to fulfill the spiritual need of their members in a safe, 6-feet- social-distancing way. Following are four creative ways that parishes are communicating today.
1. Social Media Check-ins
Most parishes have a social media presence. Whether their specialty is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or a combination of all three, social media is the medium to utilize when it comes to supporting your members virtually when you can’t be there in person.
Consider creating a private Facebook group for your parishioners to join that can be used to post daily prayer intentions, messages of support to one another, and requests for help. It’s a great way to stay socially distant but spiritually close.
Pro-tip: While not necessary, it adds a special touch when posts from the parish come from the individuals who help lead it, rather than as the page itself. Imagine a call-out from Fr. Tim, a message of encouragement from Deacon Al, or a DM from parishioner administrator Judy. The more your parish staff and leadership can connect with your members, the closer your community will become.
2. Zoom Spiritual Retreats
Online spiritual retreats have been around for years, but only since COVID-19 has it become apparent the importance of actual live presence in online gatherings. Some parishes have been utilizing Zoom and Facebook Live to help them along their spiritual journey through both formal curriculums and casual prayer sessions.
It’s relatively easy to start a spiritual retreat online. Take time to decide when to meet, and what kinds of topics you’ll be focused on. Some spiritual Catholic programs can be found on Dynamic Catholic, Blessed is She, and Alpha, and most include a leader guide to help you move the discussion.
Pro-tip: Get members invested by asking them to sign up for the online “retreat.” Each week share with them any material that will be covered, and share real life examples to further draw them in and help them along their spiritual journey.
3. Live Eucharistic Adoration
Parishes had to get technical fast when they were required to close their doors during quarantine. Most if not all offered a live stream Mass for those wishing to take part in spiritual communion. Since that technology is already there, why not take it one step further and offer holy hours and Eucharistic Adoration for members who don’t feel comfortable attending just yet?
The faith community of St. Robert Parish in Shorewood, Wisconsin chose to livestream their weekly Eucharistic Adoration and Mass called “Cor Jesus” (Latin for “heart of Christ”) that included live music and the opportunity for those tuning in to offer messages of prayer. Recordings can be found on the Blessed is She Facebook (live music for this recording starts at the 7-minute mark).
4. Through Music
St. Augustine is quoted as saying, “To sing is to pray twice.” How true that is! Parishes have long since spent considerable time and resources on their music ministries, and so it’s no wonder that the music is an aspect that is greatly missed when it comes to Mass. Some parishes, religious organizations, and just individuals in general are trying to fulfill this longing by sharing Spotify playlists of some truly amazing songs.
It’s easy to make your own Spotify playlist. Simply create an account, click “New Playlist,” and fill in a title and description, and then browse and add songs as you come upon them. Need a little inspiration? Check out some of these playlists!
What has your parish done to keep in touch with parishioners? Tell us in the comments!