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No public Masses? Pastors takes liturgies and more online

By Deacon Kyle Eller
The Northern Cross

The faithful being temporarily unable to receive Holy Communion has been a matter of tears both for some of the faithful and for some of the clergy.

In the attempt to stay connected in a time of “social distancing,” technology has become a real boon, as many pastors from across the diocese have begun broadcasting Masses, rosaries, Divine Mercy Chaplets, the Liturgy of the Hours, parish updates, and more on Facebook, YouTube, or parish websites.

Nothing can substitute for being present at Mass, but at least 16 priests from Brainerd to International Falls are or have livestreamed Masses for the faithful to have some sense of participation in the liturgical life of the parish, joining a host of remote options that already included the televised Sunday Mass on WDIO/WIRT-TV sponsored by the Diocese of Duluth and other broadcast Masses, such as those from EWTN.

Father Paul Strommer celebrates a private Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary in Duluth March 29. The Mass was livestreamed for parishioners on the Cathedral’s Facebook page.

One priest of the diocese who has drawn attention even from the local secular media is Father Brandon Moravitz, pastor of Holy Spirit in Virginia. He has been an eager adopter, using his Facebook page and parish website and YouTube page to broadcast Masses and prayers as well as doing frequent live updates and coordinating initiatives with parishioners, such as choosing a local small business to support each day.

“It’s been a great light into our community,” he said.

One thing he’s been doing is leading night prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours. He said the couple of hundred views on the videos, when translated into the families that accounts for, means there are 500 or 600 people a night praying along. “There’s families of eight that are there praying at night,” he said.

Getting people to pray in their homes has always been a goal, and through recent events he sees it “happening in ways I could never have imagined.”

“We literally have homes all over this town with altars,” he said.

Father Moravitz said he’s getting half a dozen messages every day from people telling him they are experiencing God at home like they never have before. The experience is even reaching non-Catholics and people who have been away from the church and discover they’re missing Mass.

“There’s people in this community that have never set foot in a church that are praying every night,” he said.

“I’ve never felt more like a priest in my 10 years as a priest,” he added.

Father Ben Hadrich, pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas in International Falls, said he been expanding his online presence in recent years, for instance posting his homilies and other talks on a blog and podcast, and had recently come back to Facebook, inspired by Bishop Robert Barron.

He’s found Facebook to offer ways to connect beyond the written word.

“It’s a new opportunity and kind of the connection of speaking,” he said, in the days before his first livestreamed Sunday Mass.

He said he likes that people can hear his voice and get what he’s trying to say better than with just text. The challenge is that not everyone uses Facebook, and some don’t have a computer or smart phone at all.

He said he’s been assisted in that endeavor by his ordination classmate, Father Moravitz. “The stuff he’s doing is just unreal,” Father Hadrich said. He added that there is a lot of sharing behind the scenes among the priests to learn to use these technologies.

Father Moravitz said the technology actually doesn’t come so naturally to him.

“I had never heard of a YouTube channel in my life until a couple of weeks ago,” he said.

He said he surrounds himself with people who know how to do things and has three or four people he can call to help him record things, put together videos and podcasts, and use social media site.

“If this was just me, none of this would be happening,” he said.

Coming back to Mass

One possible concern with using this technology is that people might get too used to it — to the point that after they get the all clear to return to Mass, they will mistakenly think watching it on TV or online is the same thing.

Father Hadrich said he thinks most of the faithful Catholics will be back in the physical church and that with the those reached by the technology, parishes may pick up some new people.

Father Moravitz says as long as the focus is on inviting people to a deep relationship with the Lord, churches will be packed when the “all clear” is given.

“If we are evangelizing people and leading people to conversion, we have nothing to fear,” he said.

He has hope that it’s going to be a bridge and an avenue to greater things.

“I just sense the stirring of the Spirit in all of this,” he said.

Finding a local livestream of Mass

Following is the list of parishes and priests in the diocese who are known as of this writing to be livestreaming some or all of their Masses. See or the individual sites for additional details. Please share updates to [email protected] org so that the list can be kept current on the diocesan website.

• Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary, Duluth (on its Facebook page)
• Holy Angels, Moose Lake (on the parish website)
• Father Joseph Sobolik, of St. Cecilia and Mary Immaculate (on his Facebook page)
• St. Andrew, Brainerd (through Facebook Live)
• Brainerd Lakes Catholic Churches, Brainerd (through its parish website)
• St. James and St. Elizabeth, Duluth (on its Facebook page)
• St. Benedict Church, Duluth (on the parish website, via father Joel Hastings’ YouTube page)
• Father Blake Rozier, of Immaculate Heart, Crosslake (through his Facebook page and Immaculate Heart’s Facebook page)
• Father Mike Schmitz, of the University of Minnesota Duluth Newman Center (on the Ascension Presents YouTube channel)
• Father Brandon Moravitz, of Holy Spirit, Virginia (on his Facebook page)
• St. Joseph, Grand Rapids (on its Facebook page)
• Blessed Sacrament, Hibbing (on HPAT cable Channel 5 or on the internet channel online)
• Father Nick Nelson, of Holy Cross, St. Martin, and St. Mary (on his Facebook page)
• St. Anthony Church, Ely (on its Facebook page)
• St. Patrick’s, Hinckley, and St. Luke, Sandstone (on their Facebook page)
• St. John’s, Grand Marais, and Holy Rosary, Grand Portage (on their Facebook page)