Belleville, Ont., church offers livestreamed mass, drive-up confessions during COVID-19

Since the implementation of quarantine regulations in Canada, there haven’t been many aspects of life that remain unaffected.

That includes going to church.

Father Richard Whalen of St. Michael the Archangel Roman Catholic church in Belleville has figured out a way to stay in contact with his parishioners.

Whalen and the church’s two other priests have been delivering mass and taking confession — with a modern twist. Mass is livestreamed every day, something Whalen credits to one of the church’s younger priests.

“Fortunately I have Father Brian Russell here with me, and he’s a young priest,” Whalen said.

“He’s quite technical, he knows how to make those things happen.”

While it’s not the same as delivering mass in a church, parishioners in pews, Whalen says the endeavour has been successful.

“Any given day we have over 200 viewers of the daily mass and on weekends we have between 400 and 1,000 people who are viewing the mass.”

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With parishioners socially-isolating and practising physical distancing, Whalen says the ongoing service has helped his congregation in a time that can be lonely.

The clergymen at St. Michaels have also set up a drive-up confession booth, with one of the church’s priests receiving confession through a screened window.

“Confession for us priests is a real blessing, a real gift, because it’s one of the ways that we enter in to the very inner core of peoples lives,” Whalen said.

The Blessed Sacrament has been moved from the church’s chapel to a picture window where it can be viewed from outside at the north end of the church.

There are signs telling people to stay in their cars, observe silence, and avoid socializing while they pray.

Agnes Sheridan, one of the church’s parishioners, comes regularly to pray, saying when the church closed because of COVID-19 she felt lost and cut off from the congregation, as well as many of her friends.

She says she is thankful the Blessed Sacrament has been placed on public display.

“You’ve got that contact with the Blessed Sacrament which is so important and so it’s absolutely marvelous, I think.”

Father Whalen says they will continue with new delivery of church services as long as COVID-19 restrictions remain in place.


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