By Alison Bradish, Archdiocese of Regina News
Drive by confessions, Eucharistic Processions over the sky, websites to livestream homilies, when it comes to bringing Christ to the faithful, some priests and laity are getting creative.
Fr. Parker Love is adamant social distancing be followed. He wants to keep his parishioners safe. When Archbishop Don Bolen wrote the letter about public celebrations of the Mass being suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic, Fr. Parker knew he needed to think of new ways to bring Christ to the people.
At 31, Fr. Parker is the youngest serving priest in the Archdiocese of Regina. He is pastor of St. Augustine parish in Wilcox and chaplain for Notre Dame High school.
Thursday, March 19, the Solemnity of St. Joseph, saw Fr. Parker doing something out of the norm. Encouraged by the president of Notre Dame High School, Rob Palmarin, Fr. Parker donned his vestments, organized a few altar servers and from the back of his truck (Fr. Parker uses a wheelchair) held up the monstrance as a volunteer drove through the streets of Wilcox.
“We had lots of people who came and stood on the streets near their houses and took in the 30 seconds are so that we were going down their street,” says Fr. Parker, describing the scene.
Families watched from their living room windows. Some of the images stuck with Fr. Parker more than others. “One of the Hounds was practicing her hockey shots in her backyard and when we came down the street she stopped, and then as soon as we turned the corner, she was taking shots again. But to me, that was cool. Because if she knows anything about the faith, I don’t even know for sure if she’s Catholic, but she knows to pause in a moment like that…no matter who you are or where you come from you see this guy dressed in gold holding up this golden thing and three guys walking up front, clearly something is happening. It’s such a profound sign for people,” said Parker.
Fr. Parker laughs about some aspects of the experience. He admits next time he does a procession he will have a clear route planned. (He narrates trying to practice social distancing while also shouting to the driver what way to turn and then the driver shouting to get the message to the altar servers.)
“It was really the last time we could really do one of these things,” say Fr. Parker, noting how Notre Dame school was pretty much vacant of students by that time. “I wanted to do something like that. In small town Saskatchewan we have a huge chunk of elderly parishioners who are very faithfully listening to the suggestions to stay at home. I’ve had a couple of homebound people just on a regular basis and so here’s a way we can get to them, here’s a way we can get to all the families and kids who are barred from going to school.”
Fr. Parker says this is a time where Christians can become more visible. “I know a lot of people who have never posted anything about their faith before. And now they are,” says the priest who is also being inspired by many of the priests he was ordained with.
“One of my priest friends in Vancouver is livestreaming his Mass everyday on Twitch, a livestreaming platform that when it was originally founded it was for video gamers….for the first time ever, as Catholics , we are present on Twitch…if one person gets reached through that what an amazing thing,” says Fr. Parker.
Fr. Parker admits the restrictions put in place to protect us, also give him pause to really think about the great privilege of celebrating the sacraments. “This whole part of my pastoral ministry, part of my job and beyond that my life and vocation is being kept from me and that’s hard and a struggle but ultimately I want to serve people and I truly believe that this is the best way to serve people right now. Stay at home,” says Fr. Parker.
He says now is when we are called to stay in and go out. “It’s bad that we can’t physically share space anymore. But that’s never stopped Saints from sharing the Gospel before,” says Fr. Parker.
He does worry about some of his parishioners who are shut ins, and maybe only receive a few visits a week, he knows maybe those visits will be less, and it will take effort on his part and the community to make sure all are cared for.
Fr. Parker is also hosting an event like Theology on Tap from his Facebook Live feed during this time. He’s calling it “Cold drinks, Quarantine and Christ.” He will discuss popular culture topics and open it up to discussion.
Some of the other ways people in the Archdiocese are responding to the new pandemic norms are by putting in in place a contact person to make sure those who may not be connected virtually can be called and checked in on. One deacon from the Archdiocese is livestreaming the Divine Mercy Chaplet, a homily and the rosary every day at Intheredeemer.com. The Archdiocese of Regina is livestreaming daily and Sunday Masses from Resurrection Parish.
Alison Bradish lives in Moose Jaw with her husband and two children. They attend St. Josephp’s Parish. She earned Bachelor of Arts in Journalism at the University of Regina. She is naturally curious about local and world events. She writes from her home where she strives to bloom where she is planted. She often feels pulled to the topics of religion, education and politics.