Parish social media ministry ignites spirituality among youth volunteers
By Myrna Bermudo
“We started with three youth volunteers. Until such time that we created the Social Communications and Media Ministry, which formalized the group as a ministry in the parish. They were installed. Right now, there are seven youth volunteers who regularly take turns in the live streaming of the daily masses,” says Fr. Felipe Culvera, parish priest of Our Lady of Peñafrancia in Naga City.
“Due to the desire to bring the liturgy to our parishioners and to many people as possible, specially to those who were deprived of it due to the pandemic, we started the live streaming of the mass on September 13, 2020,” Fr. Culvera said.
Public health protocols issued by the national government during the pandemic has decreased the number of mass goers in the city. In-person religious gatherings has been limited to only 30% of the indoor venue capacity in Alert Level while 25% of capacity is allowed in level 4, following the alert level system set by the Inter-Agency Task Force during the pandemic.
“Aside from the fact that it makes the liturgy available to many, it has also increased the number of mass offerors who can send their intentions and mass offerings online, through the parish g-cash account,” Fr. Culvera shared.
Fr. Culvera said that a lot of people are sending inquiries about the schedule of livestream masses. “Apart from the daily mass, the social communications ministry of the parish also renders live streaming of wedding mass and funeral mass. Some faith formations and parish recollection are also made available to those who can’t come to church,” he said.
The Holy Cross Parish of Tabuco has also formed its Parish Commission on Communications (PCCOM). It is a group of youth volunteers: twelve (12) are in charge of live streaming of the mass and documentation; seven (7) members are tasked to publish articles for information dissemination.
“Being affiliated with our Parish Commission on Communication (PCCOM) has helped me not just to do my duties and functions but also grow spiritually,” says Maricar Cortez, a member of the PCCOM of the Holy Cross Parish in Tabuco.
When asked if she is happy and fulfilled as part of the social media apostolate, Ms. Cortez exclaims: “Yes, I am happy. The joy of serving and doing my mission as a follower of Christ is incomparable.”
It was in 2019 when the parish in Tabuco started to air the liturgical celebrations.
“When the pandemic started and lockdown were implemented, thats the time Fr. Eugene Lubigan, our parish priest, decided to air our weekday masses, “ Ms. Cortez said.
For the PCCOM of Tabuco, the social media platform especially the live streaming apostolate became a vehicle to adopt a new way of evangelization.
Fr. Luisito Occiano, director of Caceres Commission on Communications (CCCOM), said that nineteen parishes in the Archdiocese of Caceres has active parish livestream ministry.
In a survey conducted this month, ten coordinators of parish live streaming ministry, expressed happiness and fulfilment as social media volunteers.
When asked about the difficulties or problems in their ministry, they mentioned lack of funds and equipment, lack of volunteers, lack of support and lack of formation and skills training.
Majority of them started live streaming of masses when the lockdown was imposed. But for many of the volunteers, the lockdown opened many possibilities in social media ministry as well. It ignited their faith and became a source of nourishment to their spiritual life.
“I have been an active member of CCCom as a still photographer and drone operator (2010). As time passed, the pandemic took a toll on us. My mother parish needs to be virtually connected to individuals who are unable to physically visit the church. I am a one-man team that includes a layout artist for the necessary templates, a livestreaming equipment installer, a cameraman, a laptop operator, and a music operator if the choir is not there. It is a fulfillment that has been attained for the greater glory of God,” says Philip Mari Figura, St. Therese of the Child Jesus Parish, Pili.
“It is with great joy that we started to build this ministry most specially in this trying times of pandemic,” shares Ian Kelly Garces, St. John the Baptist Parish, Goa.
“As a volunteer, it is an honor to serve the Lord by helping the Church in spreading the Word of God through social media,” says Rezaldy Sambo, Our Lady of Peñafrancia Parish, Naga City.
Meanwhile, John Wally Doroin of St. Bartholomew Parish of Baao, shares his insights. “Through the power of media, social communication provides us with a fresh and huge opportunity to preach Christ’s mission. Being a member of media ministry transforms us into a missionary who uses the internet to communicate the message of Christ to various people, at different times, and in different places.”
“As a SOCCOM volunteer, I am grateful to bring Christ to those people who are not able to go to church physically. I realized that amidst the new age, we can still evangelize and bring God’s Word using the new technology and social media,” says Egay Marck Conmigo, Parish of St. Martin de Porres, Goa.
“First, it has been a calling for me to call on others as we were told by the scriptures we, Christians, under the holy roman apostolic Catholic church has call upon and spead the gospel. Through live streeming I have felt high regard on my own spiritual journey. And with that the Eucharist, I see a living proof of Christ’s greatest gift: Salvacion.
Here I have realized that Christ, our Savior, is not only limited to corners of the church but specially he have built a church inside of us,” says Darnel Campo of Nabua, Camarines Sur.
“It helps me appreciate the importance of the Eucharist for the people who is not physically present during the mass but spiritually present because of the online mass brought by the livestreaming apostolate,” Geoffrey Penacilla of San Jose, Camarines Sur says on how being a volunteer has helped him.
“Very much happy po asin inspired po ako lalo na kun kadakol po an nag aattend sa live streaming. Nakatabang po ni na ma-appreciate ko an Misa asin lalo po akong napaparani sa Kagurangnan,” shares Arnel Q. Belgica, Sacred Heart Parish, Garchitorena.
“I am happy and fulfilled with the apostolate not just because I am acquiring new skills but of course of the fact that I am bringing the Eucharist and the Word of God to each and every Catholic in the world. By merely focusing the camera to the Body of Christ, it helps me to see Jesus in the Eucharist and appreciate the beauty of the sacrifice of the mass,” according to Michael Paylado, St. Jude Thaddeus Parish, Naga City.
Based on the reflections of the youth volunteers, the parish live streaming ministry has ignited an appreciation of the Eucharist and in finding a deeper meaning in serving the parish in time of pandemic.
Many parishes throughout the world were forced to go virtual during the Covid-19 pandemic. Technology has allowed churches to schedule online rosary groups, live-streamed adoration and masses. Both parishioners and priests struggle to adjust to the new normal.
“We know of course that the online mass is never a substitute for our personal attendance in the church,” says Fr. Felipe Culvera of Peñafrancia Parish.