With thanks to the ongoing support of the Family of Faith Campaign throughout the Archdiocese of Toronto, one parish in the Eastern Pastoral Region is finding new ways to evangelize with technology. The following is the story of their experience.
In late 2016, St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Oshawa was selected as one of the first parishes in the Eastern region to participate in a video conferencing network project initiated by the Archdiocese of Toronto, with funds coming from the Family of Faith Campaign. We recognized that the ability to live stream different events would allow for tremendous opportunities for catechesis, fellowship and prayer as between various people across the Archdiocese. As such, the parish initiated a new project whereby we would live stream all of Cardinal Thomas Collins' Lectio Divina sessions from St. Michael's Cathedral Basilica on the first Sunday of each month directly to St. Joseph the Worker Parish.
It was very important to us that members of the parish community felt a real sense of ownership over what we were trying to build together. We set up a schedule ahead of time whereby our major parish groups would take turns hosting each evening, while other members of the parish would provide food and refreshments. The lights in the hall were dimmed, round tables were decorated with white table cloths and candles and a statue of Our Lady was enshrined in anticipation of the Salve Regina to be sung at the conclusion of Evening Prayer. We also set up a wide selection of spiritual reading books available for purchase, courtesy of Pauline Books and Media.
Over 75 people ended up attending, and everyone seemed completely captivated from the outset. Perhaps one of the most moving moments in the entire evening was when everyone stood up to sing "O God Beyond All Praising" at the start of Evening Prayer. One of our concerns going into the evening had been that people would feel detached from what was going on because everything was being live streamed, but that turned out not to be the case at all. It was incredibly powerful to see so many people sing the opening hymn with such reverence and devotion before moving into Evening Prayer and listening with great attentiveness to Cardinal Collins as he began Lectio Divina.
The feedback we received at the end of the night was tremendous. Many people couldn't wait for next month's session, and expressed a great desire to pass the word onto their family and friends. It was the start of what we hope will be many more successful evenings to come in the future.
Sandra Walfisz is Campus Minister for the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Durham College and Trent University in Oshawa, Ont. She is based out of St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Oshawa.