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A Jesuit's Journey:
Fr. Michael Class, SJ

Fr. Michael Class, SJ

April 11, 2024 — Covid-19 brought me the opportunity for a new ministry. During the pandemic, when all schools and most businesses were closed, my work as chaplain to the Grand Traverse Area Catholic Schools (GTACS) went on hiatus. My weekend job, as sacramental minister at St. Wenceslaus Parish in Leelanau County, Mich., did not end, but it changed. The parish administrator, Deacon Martin Korson, and I still celebrated Sunday Mass, but we did it to an empty church.

In the second weekend of the shutdown, it occurred to me that my digital camera had video capabilities and could film a movie. I set it up on its tripod and recorded the Mass. I then uploaded the file to a YouTube page that I had established while teaching at Marquette University, and emailed the link to our parishioners. A video ministry was born.

We began celebrating daily Mass to our empty (but for the camera) church and sending the links to our parishioners. Sound quality was poor, and the lighting was not the greatest, but it was something.

I had used Zoom for video meetings, and we thought we could also use it to live stream the Masses to our parishioners. I switched from my digital SLR camera to my iPad, and we were indeed able to live stream. I used the earbud from my cell phone with the iPad, which served as a remote mic, and our sound issues were solved. We also picked up a couple work lights to address the lighting. Eventually, we bought a Vimeo camera for the church, connected it to the internet, and were able to plug into the church’s sound system. Suddenly, all our weekend and holy day Masses were available on Facebook. We were also able to download better video files from Zoom to post to YouTube, and we used audio-only files for podcasts.

When the schools re-opened, I began recording my chapel Masses from St. Francis High School and sent YouTube links to parishioners, friends and others who requested them. There are now several hundred Masses available on YouTube and Spotify. What has amazed me is the reach of these videos and podcasts. Spotify gives me great data on who has listened to Masses, and so far, they have been heard in 22 countries.

What have I learned? I put in more work on my homilies, knowing that it is not just the people in the chapel who will hear them. This has been good for me as a preacher, but also good for my faith life. I continue to learn new things about the Scriptures and our traditions, and that is always good. I have also received a good dose of humility, which is a wonderful thing. Knowing that something you say might be heard around the world by people searching for spiritual nourishment can only be humbling.

Fr. Michael Class is the sacramental minister and chaplain at St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church in Gill’s Pier, Mich., and chaplain to the Grand Traverse Area Catholic Schools (GTACS). He entered the Society of Jesus in 1979 and was ordained in 1990.