Without public Mass, ‘we can still be … a Church community’

| March 30, 2020 | 0 Comments

Stacie LaValle and her children, Kathryn, 13, and Lucas, 10, stand outside their Woodbury home with hand-colored signs. COURTESY GUARDIAN ANGELS

Here’s the church and there’s the steeple.

Open the door and see all the people.

With the nursery rhyme, children interlock their fingers to form a church building, then “open a door” to show the people inside.

In similar fashion, Sara Fleetham, elementary faith formation coordinator at Guardian Angels in Oakdale, used Zoom video conferencing March 23 to show students an image of Guardian Angels church and asked them, “What is this?”

Each in their own home to help curb spread of the coronavirus, they replied, “our church.” Then she said, “It’s not just the building, it’s the people.” With an “ahhh” of recognition, they agreed.

Later that day, Fleetham saw a news story showing a photographer taking free “porch photos” of families. She decided to do something similar with her faith formation families based on her conversation with the students about the meaning of “church.”

Fleetham talked with her students about the photo idea the next morning and emailed their parents about taking family photos at their homes.

She thought the concept could be expressed as “We are the church,” which became a sign that 17 faith formation families colored and held in front of their homes March 25 while the parish’s communications coordinator, Carla McGough, took photos and posted them on the church’s Facebook page.

Before going out, Fleetham described the plan at a Guardian Angels pastoral planning team meeting using Zoom. The team meets via Zoom most days of the week. One focus continues to be how to improve engagement with parishioners of all ages.

Public Masses are suspended but are livestreamed. When faith formation classes were suspended, Fleetham started connecting with her students in real time using Zoom.

“How can we still maintain that sense of Church … when the message today is to distance ourselves, to isolate ourselves?” said Father Rodger Bauman, pastor at Guardian Angels.

While McGough took the family photos, Fleetham left behind blessed palms and prayer books. Both were careful to keep plenty of distance, she said.

The photos emphasize that the church is more than a building. The photo shoot also was a way to see family members’ faces, Fleetham said, and emphasize one message that has been a recent topic of discussion with her students on Zoom: “We have really given up much more than we anticipated for Lent this year.”

Stacie LaValle participated in the photdo shoot with her daughter, Kathryn, 13, and son, Lucas, 10. “The only way to describe it is hopeful,” LaValle said, “especially in the time we’re in.”

What Sarah did was really important, LaValle said. “We need to remember during these times that it’s not the building, it’s the people. Even though we don’t gather at church, we can still be together and be a Church community.”

Anything we can do to spread kindness and hope, and come together as a community is needed right now, LaValle said. “This is just what we need. It shows that we can do this.”

The fact it was fun was a bonus, LaValle said.

“It was a way to spread a little sunshine in the rain,” Fleetham said.

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Category: Local News