While St. Cecilia Church closed its doors on March 14 and cancelled all liturgies until further notice due to COVID-19, the parish continues to get its message out online via virtual Gospel readings and other offerings.
The mission statement of Saint Cecilia Parish is an invitation to: “Discover the God who loves you. Engage with a parish that supports you. Serve the world that needs you.” And, during this unprecedented time, parishioners of this vibrant Back Bay Catholic parish are doing just that. Members have embraced this call to engagement and service wholeheartedly. For the past four weeks the parish staff and lay leadership have been finding new and radical ways of adapting the patterns of pastoral service, sacramental life, and the proclamation of the Gospel. Director of Faith Formation
“We have been amazed by the energy, creativity, optimism, and resilience that we’ve seen emerge from our lay leadership,” wrote Scott MacDonald, director of faith formation. “ The community of Saint Cecilia continues to reimagine new ways of participation in the most important elements of our common life as Catholic Christians.”
Every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 9 a.m., parishioners can use the Zoom platform to join other members of the St. Cecilia community for a brief Gospel reading, followed by conversation and fellowship. R.S.V.P. to get the Zoom link by contacting Scott MacDonald at smacdona[email protected]
Other online offerings include “Midday Reflections on Social Media,” as well as Evening Prayer on Facebook Live Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. Follow St. Cecilia Parish on Facebook and Instagram at @SaintCeciliaBoston.
St. Cecilia also maintains a You Tube channel where users can view live streams of its Sunday Masses each week beginning at 10 a.m., and view Fr. John Unni’s archived homilies.
For the rest of Holy Week, St. Cecilia is offering Morning Prayer on Facebook Live at 9 a.m., a Mass live streaming on You Tube at 7:30 p.m., and Night Prayer on Facebook Live at 10 p.m. on Holy Thursday, April 9; Morning Prayer on Facebook Live at 9 a.m., as well as Stations of the Cross at noon and Celebration of the Lord’s Passion at 3 p.m. on the St. Cecilia website at stceciliaboston.org on Good Friday, April 10; Morning Prayer on Facebook Live at 9 a.m., and an Easter Vigil live streaming on You Tube at 8 p.m. on Holy Saturday, April 11; and Easter Mass live streaming on You Tube at 10 a.m., and Paschal Vespers on Facebook Live at 6 p.m. on Easter Sunday, April 12.
Like so many communities of worship, Saint Cecilia has been using technology to not only maintain but to continue building community during this crisis. The weekly Sunday liturgy is live-streamed from the church with only the pastor, Father John, a reader, and a few members of the parish music ministry present. Regular services of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer are live-streamed from a parishioner’s home. Daily three-minute reflections are created by parishioners and are posted to the Saint Cecilia Facebook page.
“Father John regularly shares words of prayer, solace, and hope via Facebook. And three mornings a week there are Zoom gatherings where parishioners can hear and reflect upon the day’s Gospel reading and take part in fellowship,” MacDonald wrote.
Several of the parish’s most active ministries focus on serving less fortunate members of the parish and the Greater Boston community. While several ministries have needed to curtail some of their activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, two have remained very active. Saint Cecilia CARES ministry is a home visitation program with parishioners who visit the homes of the sick, isolated, and lonely members of the parish and surrounding community. Communication is now more likely to be provided through phone calls and texts, but the CARES ministers are a source of comfort and support to these folks and a group of volunteers has been created to do shopping, dog walking, and other chores for those who are advised not to leave their homes.
Meanwhile, the parish Hunger and Homelessness ministry continues to volunteer at some of Saint Cecilia’s nonprofit partner agencies despite the need to practice physical distancing. Community Servings, the Commonwealth’s only nonprofit offering free, home-delivered medically-tailored meals to those with critical illnesses, has long provided some of the most popular volunteer opportunities for Saint Cecilia parishioners. With appropriate spacing and attention to hygiene, Community Servings continues to welcome volunteers from the church. The parish also has a decade-long relationship with the Catholic Charities’ food pantry in Dorchester. On Saturday and Sunday mornings, parishioners drive to three Boston supermarkets, pick up donated produce and grocery items, and deliver them to the food pantry on Columbia Road.