By Sarah Mac Donald - 17 December, 2019
The Redemptorist Community of St Joseph’s Monastery in Dundalk is launching the Co Louth town’s first church streaming service this weekend with the aim of involving emigrants overseas who can’t travel home for liturgical celebrations to participate via the internet.
The monastery’s annual Carol Service will be the very first event live streamed, beginning at 7pm on Sunday 22 December.
All services at St Joseph’s will thereafter be available to follow live.
The service will enable former parishioners of St Joseph’s who are now overseas to participate in live liturgies such as Masses, funerals, weddings as well as Sunday’s Carol Service.
Rector and Parish Administrator, Fr Noel Kehoe CSsR, described the new initiative as “an exciting new tool in our mission to preach plentiful redemption.”
He added, “Communication is at the heart of evangelisation and digital technologies and this offers the possibility to communicate our mission to a worldwide audience.”
He underlined that the new webcam would allow family and friends around the world to “be part of our worshipping community”.
Many people from Dundalk have emigrated or moved to other parts of Ireland or the UK and still feel a connection with the Redemptorist Church.
“This allows them to bring the local faith community into their homes wherever they are, via a computer, smart phone or tablet. As a parish, this means that family abroad can connect for important family occasions such as weddings or funerals, times when distance can be a painful experience,” Fr Noel explained.
He also highlighted that this new technological development was important for people who find themselves housebound due to age or infirmity.
“We hope that it will be an important resource for individuals as well as nursing homes and hospitals. We want to be a faith community that includes everyone and too often, those who can no longer come to church can feel cut off from their local community.”
“The mass, devotions, prayers, petitions, music and singing that create that community can now be continued even at home.”
Other Redemptorist Churches in Ireland have had a streaming service for some time, including Clonard Monastery in Belfast, where Fr Kehoe was previously Rector, which was one of the first in the country to pioneer this technology.
Statistics provided by churchservices.tv show that for the months from January to the beginning of December 2019, except for June, the average number of unique viewers for Clonard Monastery and Mount St Alphonsus, Limerick was: 171,903. The average number of total viewers for Clonard Monastery and Mount St Alphonsus Limerick during those months was: 655,067.
The average number of unique viewers for Clonard Monastery and Mount St Alphonsus, Limerick in June 2019 was: 46,637 while the average number of total viewers for Clonard Monastery and Mount St Alphonsus Limerick in June 2019 was: 246,272
According to Fr Kehoe, the experience of both Clonard and Mount St Alphonus in Limerick, which is also a Redemptorist church, testifies to the importance of digital communication. “It is a very significant digital faith community,” Fr Kehoe said.
“Some people are wary of the internet and one can feel very anonymous and isolated online, whereas this initiative brings people into contact with a real living faith community.”
“In 2017, Pope Francis asked the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications to find ‘new ways and means to communicate the Gospel of mercy to all people … through the media that the new digital cultural context makes available to our contemporaries.’ This new streaming service is our response to bring the message of God’s plentiful redemption to the digital world,” Fr Kehoe explained.
He acknowledged that no digital technology can replace the experience of being physically present to a person or a group of people.
“We are social by nature and our faith calls us into community. But we must embrace the digital world and harness it’s many advantages to include rather exclude. So much good can come of this, and as the founder of the Salvation Army once said … ‘why should the divil have all the best tunes!’”