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When the masses went online…

WHILE the technology to do it fairly easily has been available for several years now, it is only since the onset of Covid-19 that broadcasting of masses online has become commonplace and the reaction from the Clare faithful has been quite positive.

For many years now the numbers attending religious ceremonies has been falling, and the enthusiasm for watching them at home may give some encouragement to the Church.

Shannon parish priest Father Arnold Rosney said that since the restrictions have been in place many people have viewed the masses he has put online. “We’re doing it every morning at 10am, using the facilities of the webcam, the parish radio and I put it on Facebook live as well, which is a huge attraction for a lot of people. We find that all three are getting big numbers, particularly on a Sunday morning.

“To give you an example there were over 3,000 on Monday morning. The average could be 1,500 to 2,000, but you can’t measure how long people were on. I haven’t got the figures for the webcam but Facebook is proving to be very popular. The great thing is with it is you can go back to the Shannon Parish page and replay it for yourself. It’s a great way of connecting and it gives people the incentive to begin their day with a bit of prayer or morning mass. I also put morning prayers up, a lot of people like that as well. I vary it from the formal prayer of the Church to a little bit of music, a bit of reflection, meditation, that kind of thing.”

He feels that people who are struggling can draw a little strength. “It’s great in getting people ready for the day, maybe some people find it difficult to get up in the morning, this is an incentive to help them, to give them some courage and hope for the day. We’re mindful that there are a good few people living on their own.”

Those watching the masses leave comments and interact with one another, which he says is very positive at this time.
He expects that technology will become increasingly important in the Church’s attempts to connect with the public, even after the pandemic has passed. “It is the way to go to connect with people and when our churches are open and people rejoin us we will still connect with people at home. I suppose it’s a new norm for the Church. We had the webcam and feed for radio and so on, lots of parishes have those which is wonderful but this now is going to be normal for us in how we evangelise and catechise.”

Social distancing restrictions mean it is much harder for the clergy to perform their everyday clerical duties, but everything possible is being done within the confines, he adds. “All we’re doing is trying to reach out, encourage people to continue to be hopeful and courageous. It’s not easy but we’re blessed with the weather over the last few weeks. All we can do is connect as best we can.”

Separately Father Rosney has asked people interested to compose a prayer, a short story, a poem or a reflection for protection. They can send them to him by post or to office@shannonparish.ie. They are to arrive by this Sunday and there are two prizes of €50 in each of the categories.

Father Damien Nolan is based in Corofin and masses are being said in the churches of the Imeall Bóirne cluster and put online each day at 9.30am.

“It’s beginning to take off a bit more, we’re getting more views, more people are going onto the Facebook page generally.”

He said that it can be difficult for people, who have been attending churches all their lives, to now find those places of refuge closed to them, just as the country is experiencing one of the biggest crises in living memory. “Of a weekday morning I would have 30 to 35 people, sometimes 40, at mass in a small village. All these people are retired, a lot in their 70s and some in their 80s. They’re finding it difficult. One or two are saying to me that when they walk past the church and its locked and they can’t say a prayer or light a candle and that’s very challenging for them.”

Watching or listening masses online does help, he feels. “They can hear our voices and see the faces. I got a phone call from a lady in her 90s and she can’t get on the internet, but her daughter called her and had it going on her phone for her so she could hear mass. It was a familiar voice for her, someone she knows. I call to this lady on the first Friday of the month to bring holy communion and this elderly lady herself rang me to say she was so happy.”

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.