St. Andrew Parish finds creative way to help people participate in, not just passively watch, Mass
Friday, Jul. 31, 2020
RIVERTON — When the news about having to temporarily close church doors to public Masses due to the coronavirus pandemic came, the common question that pastors had was, ‘What can we do to continue to celebrate the liturgy?’
In the Diocese of Salt Lake City, Bishop Oscar A. Solis and Msgr. Colin F. Bircumshaw, vicar general, suggested that priests use social media platforms as a way to keep in touch with the community.
This suggestion left the door open for the diocesan priests to find other ways, and to use their creativity to reach out to their parishioners.
Father Marco Tulio Lopez, administrator of St. Andrew Parish in Riverton, asked himself how he could really be in touch with his community.
“Analyzing the situation with some parish leaders, the point was made about the people not just looking at the celebration of the Mass – we wanted them participating in it,” Fr. Lopez said.
It isn’t enough for the community to be merely spectators at the Mass, they need to be participants in the liturgy, he explained.
“So, looking for ideas, we realized that there was a possibility of doing it by connecting through a phone line,” Fr. Lopez said.
In this way, St. Andrew parishioners would not just watch Fr. Lopez celebrate the Eucharist, they would be participating in an active way.
“Through the phone line you don’t just listen to the priest, you can hear everyone and everyone can hear you,” said Father Lopez, adding that through the phone the parish has been able to create the spirit of Communion.
Not just the priest is involved in the liturgy. The parish’s English and Spanish choir participate through the phone lines, as well as the lectors.
“The choir members were at their homes and from there they sang. ... The lectors also were at their homes and sometimes we had entire families doing the readings,” Fr. Lopez said.
Even people living in California, Texas and Boston have been able to participate in the phone celebrations.
To connect to the phone-line Mass, people call the parish office to receive the time, phone number and code to use to participate in the celebration. About 90 phones can connect at the same time, “but through a phone line can be an entire family,” Fr. Lopez said.
He has discovered that when people connect through the phone, “you have to really participate, because if you don’t, you lose which part you are in ... so it forces you to pay attention so you don’t get lost,” he said.
“Our voice has power,” he added. “Through it we can express our whole being, we can establish a deeper connection. ... You are connected in an intimate way because we all hear each other at the same time.”
Now that parishes are allowing parishioners to physically attend Mass at the church, this system is still running at St. Andrew.
“We celebrate the daily Masses, and some weekend Masses, too, as well as the Holy Hour and the rosary, for all our parishioners who still cannot and should not be physically in the church,” said Fr. Lopez, referring to the people in the high-risk category of contracting COVID-19.
The current situation with the pandemic has forced people to reflect more, to pause and think about how they and others are acting, he said.
“Sometimes we act just automatically and we just limit ourselves to the things that we know ... but when we really reflect we can find different and a wide range of possibilities,” Fr. Lopez said, and suggested that people take time out in their lives and reflect on God’s love and mercy.