Churches adapt in ‘unique and uncertain times’

Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Fr. Gary Kaiser celebrates Mass without a congregation present at Precious Blood Catholic Church in Jasper on Wednesday. The five Catholic bishops of Indiana have suspended all public Masses until further notice due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fr. Kaiser set up a Facebook live stream so people could watch from home. ÒWhen you have those prayers and theyÕre not going back and forth, itÕs going to be different,Ó he said of celebrating Mass alone. ÒThis is how weÕre adapting, trying to be fluid in these ever-changing times.Ó

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

Each day around 8 a.m., Fr. Gary Kaiser conducts Mass.

It’s like a typical Mass, except the pews at Precious Blood Catholic Church in Jasper are currently empty of parishioners. The daily Mass is being live-streamed on his Facebook page.

And that’s OK at this time. In fact, it’s necessary. With the potential spreading of COVID-19, parishioners are directed to stay away for their physical health.

But Fr. Gary, like many other clergy across Dubois County, must still take care of the people’s spiritual health.

“We’re doing what we can to reach out to the people,” he said. “It is challenging, but we just try to walk with them and support them and certainly pray with them.”

With the uncertainty of this novel coronavirus called COVID-19, churches are following strong recommendations from state officials and not having the normal gatherings for weekly services and programs.

So Fr. Gary dons his church attire, sets up his computer device, starts a live-stream and celebrates Mass for the parishioners and others who are watching. “They can watch it at any time or they can watch it while it’s happening,” he said.

Precious Blood’s Adoration Chapel is open for people to come and pray. They are asked to follow the diocesan guidelines of social distancing by keeping 6 feet apart.

Fr. Gary is keeping regular parish office hours, so that people can call to reach him and church staff. “If there are people who need pastoral care, we will minister to that,” he said. He is also reaching out to the Holy Trinity Catholic School students and their family next week through Facebook to make sure they stay connected.

“Certainly, it’s a change for people,” Fr. Gary said. “But, by far and large, people are understanding that these are unique and uncertain times, and they’re following those mandates.”

Rev. Mark McDaniel, pastor at Salem United Church of Christ in Huntingburg, will record a service that will be broadcast on WBDC and shown on Channel 18.

“I will do the worship and record the audio and video, and submit them to the two stations, and they will run them at the normal time on Sunday,” he said. He also plans to offer a service on the church’s Facebook page, either a live-streamed one or a recording.

The church members were told about the changes at last week’s service, he said.

St. Paul Lutheran Church in Haysville will record a service and broadcast it on WITZ at about 9:15 a.m. Sunday.

Pastor Timothy Holt said that is the approximate time. “A few other congregations are going the same route, and [the station] will have them consecutive,” he said. The recording will also be on the church’s Facebook page for people to listen, he said.

Central Christian Church Huntingburg is planning to live-stream on its Facebook page as well. Pastor Zach Korff will conduct Sunday morning service at the normal time, 10 a.m., as well as Bible study at 7 p.m. Wednesdays, church office manager Lana Thomas said.

Redemption Christian Church in Jasper will have its second recorded service online this Sunday; it will be up by 6 a.m. and available on Facebook, YouTube and the church’s app. The church is also offering daily Bible readings, prayer and devotionals for students via Facebook and Instagram, and recorded lessons and activities for children on Sundays, Wednesdays and Thursdays via YouTube and Facebook.

Marlena Sloss/The Herald
St. Joseph Catholic Church is seen in Jasper on Wednesday. Today, the bells will toll at 3 p.m. for 15 minutes to unite the community in prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Joseph. Every day following, the bells will toll for 5 minutes to invite the community to prayer.

St. Joseph Catholic Church in Jasper will continue to have Mass broadcast every Sunday morning on Channel 18. It will be the priest alone in the chapel at this time.

“We have parishioners who are devastated, and we try to reassure them,” said Mike Hagerdon, St. Joseph’s parish catechetical leader, or PCL. “But we can’t put our parishioners at risk.”

The church is also working on live-streaming more messages on Facebook. One will be a message of faith geared toward school-aged children and their families. “It will be a message of faith, love and devotion, and encouragement,” Hagerdon said. “We’re concerned with that demographic not being able to understand what’s going on in the community.” The other live stream will be prayers or devotions; those are planned for 3 p.m. each weekday.

As part of the Feast of St. Joseph, which is today, St. Joseph will ring the church bells at 3 p.m.; they will ring for 15 minutes. “That is designed, first of all, for be a recognition of our patron saint. But really, it’s an invitation to the entire community, an invitation to prayer,” Hagerdon said. “We’re hoping [community members] are inclined to stop what they are doing and pray.”

Every day after that, the bells will ring quietly at 3 p.m. “as a reminder of our need to pray,” he said.

The church will also have confessional on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to noon, Wednesdays from 7:30 to 8 a.m., and Thursdays from 7 p.m. until everyone is seen. They can also call to schedule as well.

People can also call to schedule other sacraments, like sacrament of healing.

The church itself is open 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. for people to come inside and pray. Several times a day, church staff, including Hagerdon, go in and sanitize the different surfaces people touch frequently. “The holy water founts have been emptied, to eliminate that possibility of transmission,” Hagerdon said.

St. Joseph is also looking for ways to serve the community. For instance, volunteers have been making hundreds of packages for Backpack Buddies. They are also willing to go pick up necessities for those in the community who are at a higher risk of infection, like seniors.

“We are reaching out to all the community agencies and groups assuring them of the support of everything we have here,” Hagerdon said. “We’re looking at distribution options for food and other things needed in our community.”

The county health department encourages residents to avoid all unnecessary travel and to stay home if possible.




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