By Manuel Barrios
The Spring semester of the second year of Theology, seminarians go into what is called a “Pastoral Internship.” This allows the seminarian to implement what he has learned in the seminary and to experience the life of a diocesan priest while living in the parish rectory. After their internship, the seminarians go back to the seminary to continue their studies and preparation — we seminarians attend St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein Seminary located in the North side of Chicago, IL.
I am seminarian Manuel Barrios. A fellow seminarian, Joseph Nguyen, and I were in our pastoral internship semester in our respective parishes in San Jose when the shelter-in-place order was called.
Assigned to St. John Vianney’s Parish, the first weeks were exciting because the pastor, Father Steve Brown, introduced me to a lot of people and invited me to introduce myself in multiple Masses per day. I had the opportunity to accompany Fr. Steve to home visits to the homebound and to bring communion to the sick. Prior to the shelter in place order, I tried to be involved in everything—councils and ministries. The goal was to experience the life of the diocesan priesthood.
With the sudden shut down of our churches, our way of interacting with people had to change. The first week of the shelter-in- place order, Fr. Steve and our parish administrator arranged so that we could livestream the Masses. I was asked to lead music for both the English and Spanish Masses but by the second week I got involved in the actual livestreaming process.
I had some knowledge on audio and video recording, but live streaming was different. I tried to learn as much as I could to provide the best possible experience for our parishioners. This was like a new call for me and, little by little, God equipped me to help reach people better using technology in this time of crisis. We, as a parish, were not prepared, nor did we have any prior experience with livestreaming equipment. However, we were determined to continue our ministry.
Our team is proud of how much we have improved our ways of reaching people through multiple media. We continue to learn and grow together understanding the importance of spreading the Gospel via livestreaming and recorded videos. Fr. Steve acknowledges that there were people who perhaps were not being ministered to with the virtual services until now. We now understand the importance of ministering through social media even after Masses resume.
When I look back at my original plans and expectations of my Pastoral Internship, I see how different my experience has been. However, I learned in a short period of time how priests have to constantly adapt to changing circumstances. In this case, using technology and social media to reach people, especially the younger generation.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve the Lord during this difficult time for our community and I will continue to listen to his call to serve in different, and sometimes unexpected ways.
Please continue to pray for our seminarians and for more vocations to the religious life, the priesthood and married life. I will continue to serve the Lord wherever he needs me, wherever I may be led.