Live online masses attract huge numbers to church

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By Teresa Yovela

A Melbourne church plans to continue live-streaming daily services after the coronavirus restrictions are lifted, following the unexpected success of its temporary initiative.  

The decision comes after Burwood’s St Benedict’s Catholic Church parishioners realised that the church’s newly created YouTube channel had been viewed more than 80,000 times since it first began streaming in March. 

Mission Support Daniel Ceccon said the videos had reached not only audiences in Australia, but across the world as well, thanks to the links shared by community members and free advertising from Google.

“We’ve had a lot of viewers from the US, India, Philippines, Malaysia, and about 32 other countries live streaming the masses and adoration we are offering. Also, one screen could be watched by several members of the family, so the number of people watching can certainly be more than that,” Mr Ceccon said. 

The current equipment used to live-stream is loaned by a community member, but the church plans to purchase its own equipment to continue the online service in the future.

“We’re basically looking at about $18,000 to get this going. Thankfully, there’s already quite a number of people looking to contribute towards that amount,” Mr Ceccon said.

Former St Benedict’s member Florianne Ravanne, who returned to Mauritius last year, said that the live-streaming of masses has helped her during the pandemic.

“It makes me feel like I’m still an important part of the church, even when I’m far away. And it has also been a great help to us since we’ve only got masses aired through TV and radio station here,” she said.

With about 400 people live-streaming its Sunday 10pm masses and about 2000 more views obtained throughout the day, the number surpassed the church’s usual attendance of around 500 people from three weekly vigil masses.

Despite this, church missionaries and volunteers are optimistic that this plan would not affect people’s decision to attend mass in person.

“There is an amazing desperation of people to get back into the church. So I don’t think that streaming the mass will take people away. I think that it will potentially engage even more people,” Mr Ceccon said.

“I hope that if people can sort of see what actually happens inside the mass and the Catholic Church, maybe it can touch them in a way to be closer to Jesus, might help their faith, or answer their questions.”

Aside from live-streaming daily masses and adoration, St Benedict’s had also held drive-thru adorations and drive-thru reconciliations following the government’s suspension of religious services to fight coronavirus.

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