Building community in unexpected ways



I don’t remember the exact month; but back in the spring, my pastor began celebrating a Mass every morning that we could access on the parish Facebook page.

I wasn’t quick to warm to the new format. At the end of Mass, I would enter a small, quiet “thank you” in the comment section, and that was that.

But slowly I began to realize that a small community was building at nine every morning. People with names that I recognized but who I didn’t really know were gathering separately in their homes, and we were celebrating Mass together.

Names like Sara, Rose, Lucy, Karen and David began to appear on my Facebook screen.

It took a while, but here’s what happened.

A few minutes before Mass started, we welcomed one another with a simple “Good morning.”

Sara’s greeting was always the cheeriest. “The bells are ringing. The sun is shining for another beautiful day.” Her words made me so happy.

Sometimes people would tell us where they were located if they weren’t in Evansville. They said they were watching from as far away as Virginia and Florida.

Father’s homilies were always wonderful, and sometimes someone would type a “thank you.”

During the Mass petitions, we would ask one another to remember family members who were very ill, and we promised that we would pray. We prayed for the unborn and we prayed for our country.

When our pastor held up the consecrated Body and Blood during the Amen, I was comforted by the thought that these friends were with me – of course, not with me in body, but with me in spirit.

During the Sign of Peace, we would greet one another as warmly as was possible because of the actual distance between us.

While people in the church building were receiving the Eucharist, the camera often focused on the tabernacle.

Sometimes this was a sad moment for me as I sat in isolation, home alone on my couch.

It helped when Lucy began posting this prayer for Spiritual Communion: “My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive you sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.”

We often ended Mass with Rose writing a blessing for our pastor, and with Karen adding, “Thanks be to God.”

All in all, it became a very reverent time for me, and I suspect for the 40-plus others in our virtual community.

Someday, I believe we will all be back together in our church building. We will give one another hugs, and maybe we will have coffee after Mass.

Until then, Facebook hearts will have to do.