By Dominique Johnson
On March 13th, the public celebration of Mass in the Diocese of Juneau was suspended in response to the coronavirus. Following that announcement, priests of the diocese got creative in order to continue to celebrate Mass and give their parishioners community.
On Sunday, March 15th, Father Augustine Minn, KMS recorded his private Mass from St. John by the Sea parish in Klawock and uploaded it to YouTube and shared the video with his parishioners via Facebook and email. Father Augustine shared that he didn’t originally plan to record his Mass, but parishioners had asked about the possibility. “I sent out the bishop’s letter to parishioners on March 13th and some responded asking if I would share my Sunday homily,” the priest said. So, Father Augustine sent his parishioners the Mass readings along with his homily in an email.
By Sunday morning, he had received many responses to the emailed homily with the suggestion of a recorded Sunday Mass, that he found his tripod and camera and decided to give it a try. The response that he received from his flock was an appreciation for the ability to share Mass with their pastor and community, through video.
The next week St. Paul the Apostle in Juneau and Holy Name in Ketchikan followed Father Augustine’s lead by taking to Facebook with livestream Mass celebrations from their parishes. Father Mike Galbraith and Father Pat Travers have offered live broadcasts of their private daily and Sunday Masses.
Father Mike, who was unsure about livestreaming Mass at first, changed his mind after seeing the number of views from the first broadcast. The Wednesday afternoon daily Mass have over 900 views in 24 hours. After seeing the gratitude from parishioners, he saw how the livestream Mass could bring the community together, while having to be physically apart.
While internet access in other parishes in southeast wasn’t available, Father Dwight Hoeberechts, OMI and Father Perry Kenaston communicated with their parishioners with YouTube messages posted on their parish websites and social media pages.
Though priests and parishioners alike look forward to returning to their churches to celebrate Mass together in person, Father Augustine said there have been some positives that have come from offering Mass online. “I saw some people interacting in the live broadcast, who I hadn’t met before, but were on our email list. It was good to see them participating.”
While public Mass is suspended in the Diocese of Juneau, you can find online resources, including livestreamed Mass links at dioceseofjuneau.org.