By Joanne McDonald
St. Joseph Catholic Church parishioners may not be sitting shoulder to shoulder but they are together in spirit celebrating the Mass during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fr. Rico Passero and staff at the Grimsby church printed hundreds of photos from the parish directory and taped them to the pews where parishioners would normally sit.
Now as he livestreams the celebration of the Mass, Fr. Passero can see the faces of the congregation as they join him online, connected to their church family.
The response has been overwhelming with 1,300 views joining the St. Joe’s Mass this past Sunday.
Parishioners welcome the message to not feel alone or despair but to stay connected.
“Overall it’s absolutely amazing and gives us a sense of hope,” Fr. Passero said. “I remind people not to panic, God is bigger than a virus and when we are united in prayer we are not alone.”
An answer to prayer, it’s been a creative approach to allow parishioners to be present as a community.
As the spread of the coronavirus moved from concern to the level of pandemic Fr. Passero was determined to bring hope to home ground.
The inspiration came from Fr. Guiseppe Corbari, pastor of a church in Milan, Italy, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak.
“He felt he didn’t want to celebrate Mass to an empty church and had parishioners send photos that he could tape to the pews.”
Fr. Passero thought St. Joe’s could do the same. They printed more than 400 photos from the church’s 3,000 families, “and with the help of staff we taped the photos to the pews where they worshipped.”
Since Wednesday Fr. Passero has been live streaming the daily Mass and Rosary prayers allowing people to stay at home, pray as a family, “and heed the words of Jesus ‘do not be afraid.’”
It’s been a steep learning curve, Fr. Passero had to learn how to do this in a very short time and he is answering calls to help others do the same in their churches.
The congregation is praying for all those who have the virus, medical professionals, those who have died and those who are mourning their loss.
The daily Mass is being streamed on the parish YouTube Channel: St. Joseph Catholic Church Grimsby.
Also the Sunday Mass is recorded and posted on the parish website: stjosephgrimsby.ca