Keeping Holy The Sabbath
Church of Holy Apostles Builds Community with Virtual Tools
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
December 17, 2020
MCHENRY—Long before the coronavirus swept in, Church of Holy Apostles, here, was known for its video and online ministries. 
 
You might say they were ahead of the curve before there was much of a curve, building what was essentially a TV studio in their old church, and a more elaborate studio with several cameras in their newer church.
 
So it is good to see how their online ministries are going with so many people trying to avoid catching COVID, particularly now that we are in a second wave of the virus’s spread.
 
Media outreach isn’t new
at parish
 
Church of Holy Apostles isn’t new to media outreach. Its founding pastor, Father Robert Sherry, included television recording and broadcasting capabilities in the parish’s original design.
 
According to “Our History,” issued as part of the diocese’s 2008 centennial, “The Church of Holy Apostles produces its own one-hour television program, along with its weekly ‘Mass with Father Sherry.’ ... 
 
The television ministry began in February of 1992.”
In speaking of two of his employees — Estuardo Diaz and Jen Marsh — Father Paul White, pastor, says. “These two have worked many years live-streaming Mass and building up our Facebook followers ... way before the pandemic.”
 
Diaz has served as the head of the parish video ministry for some 11 years. 
 
“We’ve streamed basically every Mass since the pandemic (lockdown) started,” he says. “Most views are at 10 a.m. on Sundays — at least 400 views.”
 
He adds that weekend Masses average 240-250 viewers, noting that people watch during their preferred time.
 
“All streaming is public, so anyone can access” the Masses, Diaz says.
 
The ministry also livestreams two daily Masses along with a “lunch break” show hosted by the parish music director. 
 
Father White hosts a show called “Out of the Box” each week that, Diaz says, “takes our church outside our walls.” 
 
There also is a Spanish-language program called “Coffee with the Deacon” on Friday nights.
 
Additionally, Holy Apostles provides DVD copies of Masses to area nursing homes, and Mass is broadcast over Comcast public access in McHenry County in the Rockford Diocese, as well as Lake County in the Chicago Archdiocese.
 
The ministry also assists Knights of Columbus and area Catholic schools with videoing upon request, Diaz says.
 
Online outreach grows
 
Marsh is the head of social media and technology at Holy Apostles. The parish, she says, began increasing their social media presence some years ago, beginning a parish Facebook page in 2012.
 
“At first, it was a basic church presence there,” she says. “As the years progressed, we changed the structure.”
 
 For the past few years, she says, staff has composed a Social Media Calendar for the year, scheduling how, when and what to post.
 
“Our engagement on Facebook is really good,” Marsh says. The page “shows people what kind of parish we are and what types of outreach we do. We’ve found (that Facebook) is a big draw for us.
 
“During COVID, we’ve upped our game (with) regular programming. We have a weekly schedule, sort of a ‘Holy Apostles TV Guide’ about what’s going on during the week.”
 
Online events include a morning rosary and evening chats. 
 
The “lunch breaks” are held on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The parish music director plays music and sometimes features a guest including teens from the parish youth group.
 
“It’s a nice, relaxing few minutes of time,” Marsh says, and good for students who are attending school from home.
 
Father White posts an inspirational quote on the Facebook page at 5:30 a.m.
 
“That’s hugely popular,” Marsh says, calling it “a great way to start the morning.” That simple, early morning effort draws anywhere from 3,000 to 15,000 views, she says.
 
Facebook is the medium used for the parish’s livestreamed Masses. 
 
“During the livestream, Father Paul can engage with people who are watching,” Marsh says. “He can make comments and asks people to send their general intercession in. People appreciate that we have daily Mass.
 
“We are very consistent,” she adds, “with so many things going on during the day.”
 
Although the staff often works from home, they “make sure people can still reach us throughout,” she says. 
 
Parishioners without internet access have been contacted by a “phone tree of sorts,” she says, as well as a mass mailing and some visits by parish associate, Father Andrew Hernandez.
 
Parishioners feel connected
 
Barb Nurnberg is one parishioner who appreciates the video and social media efforts being made by the parish. She feels especially connected through the weekday Mass.
 
“I think it’s wonderful,” she says. “I’m not sure how I would get by without it. You feel like you’re a participant, not like you’re watching on a TV channel.”
 
With the Mass on Facebook, she describes how participants can log in, tell everyone “good morning” and greet people and participate in prayers.
 
“I feel like, man, I’m part of this Mass,” she says. “Some of us who didn’t know each other very well have gotten to know each other. Once everything opens up again, (we) are thinking of having a ‘meet and greet.’
 
“I think it has really opened up the community at the church. My cousin (in Virginia) considers herself an honorary member of the parish. We never thought we could celebrate Mass together (but) this way, every morning we are celebrating Mass together.”
 
The daily Mass, she adds, “helps people feel connected especially those who are at risk. With me, it just makes me feel like I’m even closer with people than before.” 
 
Normally at a daily Mass, everyone says hello and then rushes off to work or other things, she says.
 
Nurnberg’s daughter works in an intensive care unit in a Milwaukee hospital.
 
“She pretty much has me on lockdown as much as possible,” Nurnberg says. “If I wasn’t able to get up in the morning and watch Mass, I’m not sure how well I would be coping with all this. I feel a part of a community, and I don’t feel so isolated. It really makes a difference.”
 
She says also that “snowbirds” who head to southern states in the winter are also able to keep in touch with the parish through the Mass and other programs online.
 

 

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