PLAIN TWP. That old saying “where there is a will, there is a way” has been taken to heart by St. Michael the Archangel and the Youngstown Diocese. The Plain Township church, like many Catholic Churches, has found ways to reach parishioners and others with pastoral services during stay at home orders due to the COVID19 pandemic.
Since liturgies are not open to the public, St. Michael the Archangel is streaming worship events online at www.stmichaelcanton.org and facebook.com/stmichaelcanton/. This included all Holy Week liturgies. Subsequent weekend and daily liturgies have continued to be streamed online.
“People will find full masses online,” said Pastoral Associate Justin Huyck. “We are recording weekend masses ahead of time, then editing them and posting them online for the weekends. Streaming the masses is in response to people’s need to connect to the pastoral community and because they need and want to pray.”
Additionally, the parish’s website and Facebook page contain a wealth of resources for personal prayer and support during the COVID-19 crisis. The parish’s digital programming includes music videos and reflections, faith formation for children and adults and faith sharing via Zoom. Regular emails from the parish ensure constant communication and parishioners have been asked to update their email addresses using a form on the parish website.
Aware that some parishioners do not have access to the internet or may live alone, St. Michael the Archangel is also reaching out to parishioners in non-digital ways. Pastoral associate Jeff Fricker is coordinating a massive phone tree to call parishioners, beginning with those without email addresses.
“We want to connect with people who aren’t online to check in and see if they are ok, if they have any need of help, and mostly so they know that we care about them,” Huyck said. “We have to do everything we can to walk with people even employing some of the old-fashioned ways like calling people on the phone.”
The parish is connecting parishioners in need to available resources and the parish’s Stephen Ministry is also providing pastoral support via tele-care. Huyck said the parish’s team of Stephen Ministers have been connecting with parishioners and talking with them about issues such as grief, anxiety and loneliness.
Another way the church is connecting people to prayer is in partnership with the Living Bread Radio Network, the parish has initiated an innovative opportunity, “Adoration at the Window.” Eucharistic adoration and exposition are practices that allow for prayer in the presence of the Eucharist, bread which has been consecrated at Mass.
Although it is not safe to gather in the church building, Fr. Okpara is making the Eucharist visible from the elevated Eucharistic chapel. All are invited to pray in the lower parking lot (facing Fulton and Whipple) from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday. Those praying are asked to stay in their vehicles and to practice social distancing.
“People can access prayer books online and then print out what they want and bring that to pray at the Adoration at the Window. Our job as a church is to participate in the relationship of people and God and help make that connection work,” Huyck said. “I’m really impressed with parishioners. They’ve been incredible when it comes to staying connected to worship events. People are pulling together and that’s very encouraging.”