BATON ROUGE, La. (LOCAL 33)(FOX 44) – A priest at St. Thomas More Catholic Church is using Youtube to reach his congregation during the quarantine.
Father Michael Alello props up his camera phone on a plastic pedestal used for decorating the church. He adjusts the mic one last time before standing on the altar to deliver a small message to a digital audience that’ll watch him through a screen. He says during times like this parishioners want to hear from the church.
“The church is not a building. The church is the people,” Father Alello says. “But the people are dispersed.”
When officials mandated that groups larger than 50 people could no longer gather amid the COVID-19 outbreak, Alello started brainstorming. His group of volunteers called loyal church members to send well wishes during the week, but what could they do for Sunday? Father Alello was already technologically savvy, using SoundCloud and Twitter to get his message across in the past. But none of those platforms would allow the congregation to actually see him.
“I sat down in my chair and recorded a message for this weekend allowing people to hear from me as their pastor,” Alello says.
He uploads small tidbits of a gospel or reading from a propped up camera phone in his office. He hasn’t given a full homily yet, instead just little messages, partly to get his distant congregation through the week, and partly to fill the void of empty pews.
” I miss my folks.”
But, his recorded lectures are more than just a stand-in for actual mass. The tech-savvy priest says he hopes to bring in another group of people: those that feel alienated by the church, those who haven’t been back in a while and everyone else in between.
” I hope it’s inviting people to sit with themselves and sit with their God. And to pray, to reflect, to put their hope and their trust in him,” Alello says.
Come Sunday morning, Father Alello will stand before an empty church and give a brief homily to the parishioners who tune in to Youtube. Because to him, you won’t find a church in the pews or the hymnals but in the congregation and the connection.