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Bridging the Digital Gap Holy Angels in Sidney Maintains Digital Connection During Stay at Home Order

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by Susie Bergman

Our lives suddenly shrank, in a sense, just a few shorts weeks ago. We currently live in a time of swift, reactive change. Our physical connections and interactions with others have ceased, almost overnight. Aside from those deemed essential, many of us only experience physical interactions with those in our households; coupled with occasional doorstep chats with neighbors, postal workers or grocery store employees. We now rely, more than ever, on digital devices to keep us connected.

Parishes, like Holy Angels in Sidney, suddenly found themselves with the unique and daunting challenge of Bridging the Digital Gap Holy Angels in Sidney Maintains Digital Connection During Stay at Home Order figuring out how to communicate with parishioners of all ages remotely.

“The suddenness of everything, like everyone else, caught us a bit off guard,” said Father Andrew Hess, Parochial Vicar. “The bishop’s message went viral before we could fully processes it,
communicate it in a Mass or prepare how to lead.”

Naturally, Mass has always been the most effective form of communication for priests to inform their parishes of upcoming changes or other announcements. With that direct, personal interaction immediately suspended, Father Amberger and Father Hess went into action. They immediately began beefing up their online presence and figuring out ways to communicate with the various demographics.

Patrick Blenman, seminarian and Lehman High School graduate, is helping them along the way.

“When we received the news that the seminary was shutting down due to the virus, we didn’t get much time to react. As I was driving home, I knew I wanted to help my parish in some way, and started brainstorming,” said Blenman. “Then the idea of homeschooling religion classes came to begin offering online religious classes. The first session was an livestreaming question and
answer session with students to explore the topics they were most interested in. He received more than 20 questions related to praying the Rosary, the Eucharist and virtues. He also gave students tips for being the “hands of God” at home by doing more chores and helping parents, grandparents or neighbors in need – all while maintaining the proper social distancing guidelines.

Father Amberger has been busy connecting to his parish via online communication, too. He posts a video each day on YouTube. Initially the thought was to deliver his “as planned” daily homilies, but the focus has shifted to a more timely “what’s happening today” reflection. He offers insights for how to build each other up as a domestic church and use faith as a guide through uncertainty.

Communicating with the oldest parishioners has presented its own set of challenges. “We know that many of them don’t have cell phones or computers, so we must be sure they, too, are being
communicated with,” explained Father Hess. “We are encouraging all of our parishioners to help us connect with them via landline and/or greeting card. When things come to pass and life gets
back to normal, we hope it is a new normal – where people recognize the value of family time, slowing down and enjoying the things in life that truly matter.”

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