By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News
Priests in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon are among those around the continent who are turning to live-streaming video technology to share their celebration of the Eucharist with the faithful, as public celebration of Mass is suspended to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, also known as coronavirus.
Fr. Darryl Millette of Holy Spirit Parish in Saskatoon – who has been using technology as part of his ministry and outreach for many years – has created a central website for streaming of Masses and other online resources created by priests in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon: saskatoonmass.com.
Prominently placed near the top of the website, is the “Act of Spiritual Communion” prayer that Catholics are invited to use when they are unable to celebrate the Eucharist in person.
“My Jesus, I believe that you are present in the Blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things and I desire You in my soul. Since I can not now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though You were already there, I embrace You and unite myself wholly to You; permit not that I should ever be separated from You. Amen.” – Act of Spiritual Communion
The saskatoonmass.com website on the Fourth Sunday of Lent included a 9:00 a.m. live-streamed Mass from the Queen of Peace Chapel at the Cathedral of the Holy Family, with Bishop Mark Hagemoen presiding. Three members of the Dale family provided music ministry and proclaimed readings at the celebration. The only other person present at the celebration was videographer Tim Yaworski.
Other priests in the diocese also live-streamed their celebrations of Sunday Mass on March 22 — either alone or in the company of only one or two others, including:
- St. Anne, Saskatoon (Fr. Matthew Ramsay)
- Holy Spirit, Saskatoon (Fr. Darryl Millette and Fr. John Abban-Bonsu)
- Our Lady of Lourdes, Saskatoon (Fr. Geoffrey Young)
- St. Paul Co-Cathedral, Saskatoon (Fr. Stefano Penna)
- St. Mary, Lanigan (Fr. Greg Smith-Windsor)
- Our Lady of the Assumption, Kerrobert (Fr. Daniel Yasinski).
St. Augustine Parish in Saskatoon (led by pastor Fr. Kevin McGee with Parish Life Director Brigid Fuller) has also been among the local parishes live-streaming daily Mass and other devotions, such as Stations of the Cross, the Rosary, and the Divine Mercy Chaplet.
Audio files of homilies by some priests in the diocese are also featured at saskatoonmass.com.
In his homily March 22 from the Queen of Peace Chapel, Saskatoon’s bishop spoke words of hope and encouragement to hundreds who tuned in live on the new website and on Facebook.
“Brothers and sisters: let us not be overwhelmed and fearful by what we face,” Bishop Mark Hagemoen said, encouraging his listeners to persevere in personal prayer and devotion to Jesus Christ in these difficult days. “This will assist us in bringing to bear our faith, love and – perhaps most challenging – our hope to all things, as we seek God’s inspiration about how to seek the Lord in all things, and serve our brother and sisters. We need to help and otherwise be a support to each other, and others need to know we are there for them.”
The bishop reported that in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, every diocese in Canada has now cancelled the public celebration of Mass and every bishop has dispensed the faithful from their duty to attend Sunday Mass.
“We are doing this to cooperate with what health care officials are urgently telling us about the state of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the implications of not proceeding as they direct,” he said.
Local measures continue to evolve, with more directives from the bishop expected in the near future.
“On Friday I had an extraordinary meeting with all of my priests of the diocese of Saskatoon – most of whom attended via video conference. We discussed in our short time together very practical issues that we all are suddenly dealing with, in what seem to be unprecedented circumstances. And, there will be many more issues that I will have to deal with,” Bishop Hagemoen said.
Reflecting on the scriptures for the “Laetare (Rejoice) Sunday” of Lent, including the Gospel about the healing of the man born blind, Bishop Hagemoen said: “I am inspired and challenged by the metaphors of our Scriptures today – especially how God helps us to truly gain sight and vision, and (as St. Paul emphasizes in Ephesians) – the call to be children of the Light – who allow the light of Christ to infuse any darkness that is outside or within us.”
In addition to being found on the saskatoonmass.com website, videos of Mass and other prayer resources and reflections are also regularly shared on the home page of the diocesan website at rcdos.ca, while other postings are found on various parish Facebook pages and YouTube channels, echoing a move across North America to make Mass available to those who are now isolated and home-bound.
In addition to online postings, depending on particular cable and satellite services, Mass is also broadcast on television — scheduling information about the broadcast of Mass in Canada can be found at DailyTVmass.com, (including Salt+Light Catholic Network and Vision TV) with the American channel EWTN also broadcasting daily Mass.
Parishes are also finding other creative ways to stay in touch with parishioners, including “phoning trees” and Zoom meetings.
In his live-streamed homily, Bishop Mark Hagemoen also assured the faithful of the ongoing support of the Church. In particular, he addressed the seniors who are most adversely affected by the COVID-19 coronavirus: “Please take great care to be even more mindful of heeding the cautions and safeguards that our medical authorities are giving us. If you need help or support whatsoever, please reach out and ask our assistance!”