This is What Ministry Looks Like Today

This was a busy day of ministry at the University Catholic Center, and I never saw anyone (apart from our skeleton-crew staff) all day.

With the coming of the corona virus pandemic, we’re basically shut down. But not really. The bishop has asked us to keep the building open for prayer, but no more than 10 people can be in our (600 seat) chapel at one time. We are asked to continue Masses, but they must be “private,” with no congregation. We’ll be live-streaming these Masses over Facebook Live— look for the University Catholic Center FB page.

This afternoon we did a Zoom online meeting with our Longhorn Catholic Council leaders. Nearly 30 of them connected. It was really great to see them, and see how they’re doing. Understandably, they’re not happy that they can’t resume their normal lives on campus. The graduating seniors are particularly upset, since commencement has been canceled, there will be no more on-campus job interviews, and completing their course work will be very difficult. But they are also feeling acutely the separation and isolation from the people they most love at the Catholic Center. We’ll be doing a lot more of these meetings.

We also are spending a lot more time figuring out how we “do church” when we can’t gather in person. This is what the rest of the world would call “generating content for their social media platforms.” As someone who has spent the past 35 years inviting, persuading, and cajoling people to come to church and participate in our ministries, activities and groups, I can’t begin to describe how disorienting it is to now tell people NOT to come, to cancel virtually all our ministries and activities, and to spend whole days trying to engage ministerially while sitting in front of a computer screen.

As someone who’s always been the communications/tech priest, this is clearly in my wheelhouse. But having to lean into teleconferencing and social media as our only means of carrying out our mission is more tiring and distressing that I would have anticipated.

Also worth noting: While I won’t go into any details, I also today had to jump into our community’s first troll incursion. People not currently connected with us or our ministries decided they needed to wade in and pontificate on social media about the content of a discussion they were not party to. The age-old advice is still good: Don’t feed the trolls.

Please pray for your priests and church staff.

This is what ministry looks like today.