Churches in the four-county Diocese of Metuchen are opening masses to parishioners or anyone else who wishes to attend virtually.
The unprecedented move for Catholics in the diocese to find new ways to stay connected to their faith comes in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic. The parishes have increased their digital footprint to accommodate and meet the needs of their parishioners, according to the Diocese of Metuchen.
“Although this is a ‘new normal’ and certainly has brought about new challenges for many of us, we realize that we are in this together, and just as God does not abandon us, we must continue to be there for our people too,” said Anthony P. Kearns III, Esq., chancellor and spokesperson for the Diocese of Metuchen and head of its coronavirus task force. “With that in mind, many of our parishes and pastoral ministries have increased their digital presence, serving their people where they are, even if that means remotely going to them in their own homes by way of social media, video messages, phone calls and video calls. Now, more than ever, people are looking for prayer, faith and hope, and we are doing all we can to be present for them and with them.”
The Diocese of Metuchen launched a digital initiative called One Church Together, in which directors of diocesan offices and ministry leaders gather remotely with the faithful using phone and video conferencing to pray, reflect and connect. For those unable to join live, each video session, if not livestreamed directly through Facebook Live, is posted to the Diocese of Metuchen’s website and social media pages – @diocesemetuchen.
In some parishes, masses are offered in multiple languages, such as Spanish, Polish and Latin. A list of livestreamed masses and services from around the diocese can be found at www.diometuchen.org.
State restrictions mandating social distancing, which were issued on March 21, in efforts to flatten the curve of COVID-19 led to empty pews in churches.
Many of the parishes through their St. Vincent de Paul Societies and social ministry programs continue to serve the community. They are creatively working to assist the elderly and the poor. Catholic Charities continues to operate in all four counties – working remotely – in order to provide vital and life-giving services to those in need.
“As Catholics we are called to be fully engaged in helping our brothers and sisters in need, to lighten their burden,” Kearns said. “This is what the church has done in every age, and this is our moment to be fully engaged in the sufferings and needs of others.”
In a video message, Bishop James F. Checchio reminded those watching that they are “together virtually and united.”
Churches in the Diocese of Metuchen remain open for private prayer; however, there is no distribution of blessed palms and no public gatherings inside or outside churches and cars during Holy Week and Easter.
Checcio put forth new directives in response to the pandemic, which granted Catholics to ability to eat meat on Fridays for the rest of Lent, except Good Friday; all parish and school offices will remain closed until further notice; weddings are postponed; all baptisms are postponed; and changes were made for burials and public memorials.
The Diocese of Metuchen serves the people in the counties of Middlesex, Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren.