By Kristian Luces, Head Altar Server & Communications Team Leader at St Francis of Assisi parish, Sangre Grande
Since March, our world has changed completely to something different and even completely new to all of us to what we usually do as a Church.
As with all challenges we often find ways to adapt, even find a way out.
More importantly, we need to turn to Our Father for help. He would find a way out of our current situation just as he did for the Israelites. During this time of isolation and physical distancing, we have time to stimulate our religious imagination which means finding creative ways to stimulate the faith.
The COVID-19 pandemic has allowed me to reflect on my contributions to communications ministry in our local Church.
In 2011, at twelve years old and an altar server and had an idea to record Holy Mass to review the mistakes Altar Servers made at my parish at St Francis of Assisi, Sangre Grande. The purpose was to help them make improvements for future masses.
Seeing the potential of these video recordings, I considered posting them for others to view. After presenting the idea to the parish priest at the time, Fr Derek Anton, he gave permission to create social media pages for the Parish.
At the time, Masses could only be viewed via Trinity TV, something considered for persons who were a certain age (the elderly) who were physically unable to attend Mass.
Fast forward to 2016 when Facebook announced that they were releasing a live stream feature, I was elated. I researched how the live stream feature would work and slowly bought equipment to make live-streaming possible at my parish.
There was soon an overwhelming amount of support by parishioners and even former parishioners who live abroad. It was decided that live-streaming will be continued. From 2017 – February 2019, St Francis of Assisi, Sangre Grande, was the only Catholic parish that broadcasted their Masses and other parish events.
Within in a year (2018) we were able to improve our live stream from using a phone to using a video camera and an external microphone. With the help of our benefactors we were able to purchase the best quality equipment in 2019.
Despite the good work being done, there were always a handful of negative persons who did not see the need for Live Streaming, commenting it was “distracting” or taking away from the experience of the Mass. It didn’t deter me. It also did not deter the other members of our Communications Team whom I must thank!
I think some pros of live streaming include the expansion of the congregation both online and in-person.
A live broadcast reaches potential / dormant community members. Some people feel intimidated by going to church, especially if they haven’t been for a while.
Globally, church leaders fear live streaming will decrease the in-person attendance of services. I do not think so given the increase in Mass attendance at my parish between 2018 to 2019 as well as an increase in other events such as Harvests.
It also allows the sick, the disabled, and the elderly to participate Holy Mass. Young people also can encounter Christ through this medium. I know of youth and youth adults who search for churches or communities online that can make them feel part of a group.
When it was announced on April 14 that public celebration of the Mass will be suspended until further notice, many parishioners were disappointed but understood the reason for this decision. And so, both the young and the old joined together in spiritual communion.
Within that week the number of parish live streams increased more than 110%.
I really wasn’t expecting Parishes to get the ball rolling so fast! This brought me great joy that we all can now view Mass in Point Fortin then switch to Toco or Chaguanas. The possibility of not seeing a Holy Mass Live Stream on your News Feed was extremely low.
Some advice for persons in communications ministry?
To overcome this sometimes you just need to ignore those feelings and think about the bigger picture! What if this stream of Holy Mass would reach a person and has a profound effect on them?
You need to remember who you are doing it for…for the Glory of God.