When COVID hit last year and the church’s doors were closed, we continued to hold Mass as a staff. Eager to reach out to parishioners during their time of need, we took the limited resources and little knowledge we had to begin live-streaming weekend Mass. At the time, we did not have a direct internet connection in the church nor did we have a reliable camera. So, we used my personal telephone and propped it up on a music stand to live-stream Mass for the first time on March 29, 2020. We immediately received positive feedback from parishioners and some who weren’t from the Billings area. Their encouragement and comments gave me the motivation to do better.
There were many obstacles to overcome, however. For example, the Cathedral has an echo that makes the homilies and readings difficult to understand. Even with the sound system turned up all the way, those watching on live stream were still having difficulties hearing the Mass. We just didn’t have the technical capability to do this well. After much frustration, Fr. Grosch, our Pastor, told me about the Catholic Foundation of Eastern Montana’s grant program, which was open to helping parishes handle the challenges brought by the pandemic. After explaining our story and the difficulties faced with live streaming, the Foundation blessed us with a grant to purchase a Panasonic camcorder, laptop with a better processor, game capture device, HDMI cables, internet cables, and live stream software. Finally, in August of 2020, I had a complete, functioning, live stream set up.
Thanks to the Catholic Foundation, we live stream Sunday Mass and funerals which parishioners can access at any time. Our parishioners continue to say how grateful they are for these live streaming opportunities. Although they can watch Mass on EWTN or any other online resource, they appreciate and are comforted by watching their home parish. One parishioner wrote, “Thank you to all who make this possible for us at home!! God bless you all!” We have received many such comments and even from folks outside of Billings that tune in to watch our live stream! ” We love hearing your homilies again, Father Bob. It has been the silver lining in this COVID 19 pandemic for us. May God bless you and keep you safe and in good health. Blessings, Havre MT and now Bridgeport, WV”.
So, thank you Catholic Foundation and all the donors who give to the Foundation who made this grant possible . Not only are we able to accommodate our homebound parishioners, but our efforts also extended out to those in other parts of MT, the country, and those who were unable to attend funerals of loved ones. I look forward to continuing this new ministry and making improvements along the way!
Submitted by Valerie Johnson
Director of Religious Education & Youth Ministry
St. Patrick Co-Cathedral –Billings