Student Spotlight: Ministering in the Time of Covid-19
Nov 16, 2020
If you asked me last year what my job was, I would have said that I am a church musician. My main focus was to run choir rehearsals, plan music for liturgies, work with cantors and instrumentalists, and plan concerts. However the pandemic has changed my job description from ‘Music Director” to ‘whatever-the-Church-needs-help-with-minister.’ I’ve learned a lot about video editing, live-streaming, social media outreach, and so much more. Thankfully, I've been blessed with wonderful co-workers, Andrew and Rachel, and priests that are incredibly supportive.
When our churches had to close because of the pandemic, our ministry team and parish priests met via Zoom to figure out how we could minister while we were all stuck in our homes. It was an opportunity for us to get creative with our ministry and outreach to parishioners. One of the first things we did was to organize a group of people to make phone calls to parishioners. It was a simple call to check in and see how they were doing, to offer our prayers and see if there was anything we could help with. Some of the conversations we had were incredibly grace-filled! We spoke with older parishioners who were home alone, families with children who were doing schoolwork virtually, young parishioners who had just gotten married and joined the church, nurses who worked in Covid units at hospitals...and everything in between!
Our greatest task however, was to expand our digital ministry, particularly through Facebook and YouTube. We were blessed to be able to offer live-stream Masses through our neighboring parish, St. Leo the Great, which already had a live-stream setup in the church. Actually, while most of my Catholic friends were unable to attend Mass, I was able to come and play and sing for three Masses a weekend! (It was a bit of a different experience with just myself and the presiding priest at Mass, however).
In addition to live-streaming Masses, our parish staff and young adults kicked off some new initiatives: we streamed weekly Roundtable Chats about different topics of the faith, a sung Divine Mercy Chaplet, Stations of the Cross during Lent, Virtual Holy Hours with music and adoration, and much more! While we couldn’t meet in person for music ministry, I had the help of several musical friends with whom I put together “Musical Moments” featuring music and spiritual reflections. My young adult choir, "Cantate Omnes," also put together a few virtual choir videos, which you can check out here: Eliza Gilkyson’s Requiem and Thomas Tallis’ If Ye Love Me. For my parish choir, we had regular Virtual Happy Hours, and my co-worker held Virtual Coffee Breaks for parishioners to catch up and chat.
It’s been beautiful to see how ideas which were small at first have blossomed over the time of this pandemic! I’m grateful especially to our young adults who stepped up and helped lead our many online initiatives. I’m also incredibly grateful to work with amazing co-workers and priests in our parish ministries. While some may have despaired that God was absent during this time, I think in some ways it has allowed us to grow in new ways as a Church. We can still be Church even if we cannot gather in person. Christ is still present in our lives even if we cannot receive Him in the Eucharist. God is always present in our lives, but sometimes we have to adjust how we see and seek Him.
Maria Chomicka is a Master of Arts in Theological Studies student who transferred to St. Bernard’s through our Teach-Out Agreement with Christ the King Seminary. She is the Music Director at St. Benedict Catholic Church where she runs two choirs and a vibrant young adult contemporary music ensemble, while also coordinating communications and social media for the parish and helping with pastoral ministry and young adult ministry. She holds a Master of Music Performance (Organ) and is pursuing a MATS because it allows her to apply her knowledge to her vocation as a church minister, musician, and disciple of Christ.