03 June 2020, The Tablet

The Oblate community answering the digital call

by Father Lorcan O’Reilly, Rebecca Roughneen, Lisa Clancy

The Oblate community answering the digital call

Oblates and friends on pilgrimage before lockdown.

Last week marked the Oblates 100th daily reflection on social media. In response to Covid-19 a small group formed to ensure the Oblate mission of being  “Always Close to the people” was maintained. We pivoted our community online to ensure our parishioners and volunteers across Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales had support in these challenging and uncertain times. When churches were closing, our virtual channels for prayer needed to expand providing a personal approach and comfort for all who needed it.

Since late March, the Oblate community including priests, parish workers, volunteers, youth workers and mission team workers, all answered the digital call. They had to learn quickly how to navigate the digital world and video themselves in all types of weather, locations and backdrops of trains, crows and wind.

Contributors, male and female, broadcast from Oblate locations and homes across Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales and prayed with those in lockdown at home. They shared their own personal experiences from missions in: Alaska, Poland, Mexico, Sri Lanka, India, the Philippines and of course closer to home in Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales. At 9.30 every morning and 21.30 every evening, short reflective prayers and thoughts to start and end each day are broadcast on Oblates Facebook, Youtube channel, on Oblates.ie and also tweeted out. Four Masses are also streamed daily from Bluebell in Dublin, Leith in Edinburgh, Colwyn Bay in Wales and Kilburn In London and many people have emailed in their prayers and intentions to us.

Our online connections are increasing every day. In our daily reflections we have prayed for all parts of our society including: those working on the frontline in the emergency services, our own Oblate community, our own parishioners, for people who have lost jobs, victims of domestic violence, families who are missing each other and  important family occasions funerals, weddings and christenings and for those who are battling to find a vaccine for the disease.

Oblate provincial Father Oliver Barry OMI filming for an online broadcast.

The response has been humbling and we would like to thank each one of you for getting involved. People have joined us in prayer not just from our own parishes, but from all over the world from Australia to Japan and the Philippines, all praying together during these uncertain times, finding solace. We know that this has helped people cope and gives comfort to those struggling and also gives a daily focus to those who want to pray with us. With nearly 100,000 Facebook video views, more than 14,000 Youtube views, 18,000 visits to the website each month and 30,000 page views our online Oblate community is growing daily.

“So I want to say, through you, that I am so so grateful for these morning and night prayer sessions. When Ray was reading Psalm 15 just now I found myself crying - and I don't know why.  But it touched me deeply. I cannot imagine getting through these days without the support offered through these prayers.” Parishioner April 2020.

This overall digital approach has connected us in the Oblate community during this pandemic, working together, through a time of complete transformation to ensure we present our faith in a relevant and inspiring way. We also combined our digital approach for those who prefer to read and a daily reflection email is also sent to those who are interested. As vocations are very important to us, our regular social Oblate podcast gives information on vocations following our founder St Eugene de Mazenod.

Looking to the future. As our annual pilgrimage to Lourdes has had to be postponed we are now looking at how we could share this journey with you digitally. We will all work together as a community and as Pope Francis encouraged everyone  “Let us remain united. Let us make our closeness felt towards those persons who are the most lonely and tired.”

Authors: Fr Lorcan O'Reilly, Director of the Oblate Retreat Centre, Crewe; Lisa Clancy, Oblate Communications; Rebecca Roughneen, Oblate Communications. 

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