“Phygital” Church is here to stay


“Phygital” Church is here to stay

Forward-thinking pastors realize that the best answer to the question ‘Should ministry be digital or physical?’ is ‘Yes’.” Carey Nieuwhof

It has been an experience like none of the others. Living through this pandemic calls us to creativity, forward-thinking and courage to step into unknown. We must leave nothing undared. It’s certainly a call that we, the Oblates, have heard and embraced with passion…

On October 7, 2016 Pope Francis addressed the Oblates gathered at the General Chapter, “The Church, along with the entire world, is experiencing an age of great transformation, in the most diverse of fields. It needs men who carry in their hearts the same love for Jesus Christ that lived in the heart of the young Eugene de Mazenod, and the same unconditional love for the Church, which strives to be an ever more open house. It is important to work for a Church that is for everyone, a Church that is ready to welcome and to accompany! The work to be done in order to achieve all of this is vast; and all of you also have your own specific contribution to offer.”

As Missionary Oblates, we recognize that the world “is experiencing an age of great transformation” which calls us to the missionary approach in the modern world. We value the importance of reaching out to those who are unchurched, disconnected with their faith and, in many cases, abandoned by the Church. For example, we witness this every day in downtown Hamilton, ON, Canada where there are so many people living on the fringes of society and the church.

Long before the COVID19 pandemic, we discerned the possibilities of using media as another tool in evangelization. All that the first lockdown did was fast-forwarded our efforts. It’s became obvious that our mission and ministry cannot be limited to physical gatherings. It has to include a digital presence. We must work towards both a physical and digital – a “phygital” church.

Our live streamed Masses were received with great appreciation and have helped people to stay connected with their parish community. It also allowed us to bring the Gospel message to those who wouldn’t hear it otherwise. We’ve heard a number of testimonies from people who returned to their faith after years of being away. This experience confirmed the importance of the “digital” Church in the current culture.

“I’ve never attended mass so much in my life. I always say ‘out of something bad, something good’. Going to daily mass fills my heart with hope. I am able to pray with others for family, friends, the St. Patrick’s Parish Pastoral Team and for special intentions. Although I am unable to receive communion, I still feel like a part of a community celebrating Christ. God bless you all for the live stream masses. You’ve done good far and wide. I’ve also attended two masses recently however, need to stay home for now. Stay Safe and God Bless.” Patricia

The COVID19 pandemic is a complex experience in people’s life. There is no way of going back to “normal”; the only way is to move forward. At the moment we have the “stay-at-home” order in Ontario, meaning there is no in-person participation at the Masses. When the churches are re-opened, in-person attendance will still be restricted to a certain percentage of the church’s capacity. There will be still elderly and those with compromised immune systems who will not be able to participate in gatherings for health reasons. There will still be people who are overwhelmed by the fear of the pandemic and will not feel safe until their vaccinations are complete. We cannot abandon them! This pandemic isn’t over yet and this will affect our lives for a long time to come. The “Phygital” Church is here, and it’s here to stay.

 By Jarek Pachocki, OMI