In the midst of an inability to celebrate public Masses and social distancing this week and in the coming weeks, I wanted to share some ideas for staying connected to parishioners. This is not exhaustive nor the only set of ideas out there, but I believe we can become a stronger community when we face this together without a sense of fear. In Scripture we are told, “Be Not Afraid” more than 365 times! Now is the time to show what our faith means to us, even if we are not gathering for weekly Mass.
I’m sure we’ll have more ideas to share in the coming weeks as things develop, but for now. here we go:
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate! Now is the time to utilize your website, social media channels, electronic bulletin, text messaging, and your mobile app. Be sure parishioners know they are being prayed for! Let them know about adjusted Mass times or Live Streaming options. Direct them to contribute to your offertory electronically so you can continue to serve your community in this time of need.
Live Stream your Masses: Like many in our country, I wasn’t able to attend Mass at my parish this Sunday because all public Masses were cancelled for my Diocese. So I found a few internet sources and sat to participate in a Mass from my morning prayer chair. It was a regular TV Mass from a great Catholic Media source, but it wasn’t Mass at my parish with my priest or my community. I missed my community. I think many are in the same boat. We created a simple, easy guide to Facebook Live as an options so your parish can experience Mass with their community and hear from their pastor!
Remember Your People: I saw this post on Instagram last night and had to share. This pastor has asked his parishioners to take a selfie and send it over. He printed them out and placed them in his pews so he could remember them during his celebration of the Mass. Whether your parish follows this example or not, remind your people that Masses are still being offered for their intentions even when they are not able to be present in the parish. Establish a Buddy System!
Post ideas for families to be intentional about watching Mass via streaming at home. Share activities they can do together to replace Faith Formation Classes. Live Stream a Scripture study to replace the one that was cancelled.
Share about Magnificat: They are sharing the readings and prayers for the day for free during this time so everyone who cannot attend Mass can participate. More information at this link.
Talk about Spiritual Communion: When we aren’t able to receive Our Lord Sacramentally, we can receive Him spiritually. Here’s a great article to share about making a Spiritual Communion.
Be available. It’s hard to be available when we’re also social distancing, but you could have the parish phone forwarded to an employee’s cell phone who’s at home. Or your receptionist could be the only one in the building and the office closed, but available by phone. In uncertain times, there will always be a need to speak to people who are in crisis and need.
Find a way to share Prayer Intentions: Most websites have the ability to create a simple form for people to share their intentions. You can create one and put the link on your homepage for people to share what’s going on in their hearts. You could also create a post on Facebook and ask people to comment on their prayer intentions.
Create a daily time when the parishioners of your parish can pray together. Maybe it’s a 3 pm Divine Mercy Chaplet or a morning Rosary to replace the one a group of faithful parishioners does before Mass each day. Set a time and pray as one. You could even stream this on Facebook or start a google hangout for the group.
Be Creative: I saw this story from someone in Italy who is Facebook Live’ing Mass to people in their parking lot and the families come to the door for communion one car full at a time. Or this parish who is offering a way for people to drive up for confession. Keeping the integrity of the Sacrament while also social distancing.
Evaluate your food pantry to accommodate for social distancing guidelines while also continuing to serve those in need in your community. These families will need food now more than ever with many of them not being paid for jobs that have been considered non-essential. Ask parishioners to continue to donate, even if it’s gift cards or having groceries delivered to the parish via a company like InstaCart or even Amazon.
Promote Online Giving. We all know donations are down when people are away on vacation, but in the midst of not having Mass at all, your parish will need to continue to be supported. Times of crisis are times when people will give abundantly. Did you know that during the 2008 economic downturn Philanthropic giving to support local mission work was unaffected (more info)? Those are able to give will continue to give and support organizations that are serving. Promoting giving to your parish and local organizations helping those in our community who are most in need. If you need help with that, please call us and we can provide guidance! (800-348-2886, x 3000)
Share daily inspiration on social channels. Scrolling through Facebook earlier this week I was overwhelmed with the number of non-expert “expert opinions” being shared that a Scripture verse and an article of good things happening stood out even more than before. Be a beacon of hope and light when the world is very dark.
Caring for our Seniors: Social Distancing can be hard on us extroverts and those suddenly at home with many little ones while also working remotely – it can also be hard on our seniors often confined to their homes in the winter and those finding themselves without visitors or activities in nursing homes. Create a campaign to write cards or call those of your community. This is a great activity for little ones who have already completed their homework, built 17 forts, and had 157 goldfish for snack already. Encourage your parishioners to reach out to neighbors who are in need of company and someone to pick up their groceries.
Prepare to Walk with those who are Grieving. Many will find themselves grieving the loss of loved ones during this time. As a nation we are doing everything we can to prevent the loss of lives to to COVID-19, but not every loss will be prevented from this disease or the many others plaguing our nation, particularly our elderly population. Prepare as a community to walk with those who lose loved ones. What’s the plan for funerals at your parish during this time? What’s your plan for bereavement support? Can you make this a virtual meeting? Do you have people available to take phone calls or receive emails or texts?
Your parish is needed more than ever before! We will come through this united in prayer under the protection of Our Lord … we need to use this time to be intentional.
For news updates from our editorial department, please visit this page which will be updated regularly: Our Sunday Visitor Updates.
If you have a question, please ask! If you are doing something fantastic or even simple but helpful, please share! Let’s be in this together!!