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“Are we on?” Father Robert Longobucco asks Kristine Rooney.

Rooney nods as she looks through her iPhone, which sits on top of a tripod, while recording Father Bob for a Mass on Facebook Live.

It’s 4:35 p.m. on Saturday at St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish on Rosa Road in Schenectady. In what would normally be a packed church of 200 parishioners, there are just four other people. Along with Rooney, is her husband, Chris, part of the church’s pastoral council and designated reader; Christina Pizzino-Catalano, cantor — a classically trained soprano, whose voice booms off the walls of the empty church — and Kimberly Conway, director of music. Each takes care to make sure the rules of “social distancing” are strictly followed.

There is a quiet that is relaxingly spiritual and at the same time unnerving. There are no friendly chats between families or kids crying, just rows and rows of empty pews. There is just Father Bob and four other people ready to live stream a Mass into the digital world of a world that is closed off because of the coronavirus. These Masses have become commonplace now in the Diocese of Albany and across the United States as priests and their dedicated staff find creative ways to bring the word of God to their flocks.

“Three weeks ago, we were having a regular Mass. Two weeks ago we were bumping elbows instead of the sign of peace,” Father Bob said at the beginning of the Mass while looking into Rooney’s iPhone. “Last week, we shouldn’t touch each other; we social distance. This week it is only us.”
Father Bob continued, talking directly to the faithful, “But there is not a moment where I haven’t felt your presence. It is a great time to thank you for all your support and love. And know that if people feel supported and loved one-tenth of the way I do, there won’t be a lonely person out there.”

Over 200 people watched the live stream from St. Kateri, as the parish family remained united in faith online.

These Masses are attempting to bring a sense of normalcy and the word of God to the faithful on a weekly basis. And make no mistake this will likely last for some time. After Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order on Friday banning public gatherings of any kind, the Diocese of Albany postponed the Chrism Mass, slated for April 2, and announced that Palm Sunday Masses (April 5) are to be celebrated only by a priest with no faithful attending. You can watch Masses on your computer — you can find which parishes stream Masses at rcda.org/livemass — or stream them through your TV or phone. And it’s not just on Saturday and Sunday.

Father Thomas Konopka, L.C.S.W., pastor of the Church of St. Mary, Clinton Heights and sacramental minister at the Parish of St. John the Evangelist and St. Joseph, Rensselaer, as well as director of the Consultation Center, is putting up live videos every day. St. Mary’s will live stream Mass Monday through Friday at noon, and the Masses will remain on their Facebook page until that night. Then, during the week, Father Konopka will live stream different videos at 6 p.m.: Monday is virtual adoration, Tuesday is a Novena to St. Jude, Wednesday is Divine Mercy, Thursday is Rosary, and Friday is Stations of the Cross.

These Masses provide the spiritual meals the local Catholic community needs at this time of crisis. So instead of getting in your car and driving to Mass, just turn on your computer, TV or phone and pray.