Live-streaming priest believes Catholic Church must embrace social media
Christmas Mass from West Cork with Fr Gerard Galvin to be broadcast on Youtube
Fr Gerard Galvin, parish priest on the Sheep’s Head Peninsula, will broadcast Christmas Day Mass via Youtube. Photograph: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision.
Fr Gerard Galvin, who will hold a Christmas Day Mass in Durrus in west Cork that will be broadcast live on Youtube, believes that the Catholic Church must embrace social media if it is to spread its word.
This is the third year in a row that Fr Galvin’s Christmas Day congregation in the parish of Muintir Bháire on the Sheep’s Head Peninsula will be joined by a cohort of remote listeners, from as far away as Tasmania and Canada.
“I’ve begun doing this because I think that we in the church have been slow to embrace new methods in getting the message out there.”
Fr Galvin added: “Social media gives us an opportunity to show how a small parish in rural west Cork can be part of the wider world, through embracing the technology, while at the same time helping people to understand that the message itself is unchanging.”
A priest for nearly 40 years, Fr Galvin (61) said he was finding it increasingly difficult to connect with young people. “I have always, as a priest, been able to reach young people.
“But in the last few years I find it harder to communicate, because their life experience and my life experience are further and further apart.”
The key realisation that something had to change came during a meeting this year with students preparing for their Confirmation, in which he struggled to engage pupils in a conversation about scripture.
“I used the laptop and phone, of course, but my world doesn’t revolve around the technology. To me it’s merely a device that I use, but to them it’s the core centre of their lives now. It replaces so much - family, community, church, conversation,” he said.
“Young people spend so much time on social media and on gaming that you have to wonder whether they are able to discriminate between what is real and what is fiction.
“Nowadays, it’s much harder to get the message of God’s love across to people. A tsunami of marketing and commercialism is overwhelming people,” says the priest, who was ordained in 1979 at the age of 22.
“So what we have to do is to learn the lesson from that world about how they sell their product - in a sense we must emulate this to some extent to ‘promote’ our ‘product’ which is God’s love for us.”
Fr Galvin said he was aware that some in the church would be “appalled” by the concept of bringing social media to bear on the traditional Christmas Day service.
However, he draws hope from the writings of theologian Werner Jeanrond, who, believes that such disapproval is nostalgic - and nostalgia, Fr Galvin pointed out, is not a Christian virtue.
In fact Jeanrond, he added, believes that nostalgia is “a looking back and yearning for a church and a society that is long gone.” Instead, Fr Galvin said, the Christian message, is about “living and moving forward in hope:
A Youtube-broadcasted Mass is about “looking forward and about connecting, both with our parishioners in the Sheep’s Head, in Ireland and abroad, but also about bringing a little bit of the local Christmas to “Hong Kong or Honolulu. ”
However, he has not lost hope that virtue will fall to the march of social media: “I have seen how very young people, particularly, can be so kind and thoughtful and decent in various aspects of life.
“If I have a message for Christmas Day it’s one of hope that we as a society don’t lose faith in our young people - and that we don’t forget how blessed we are by God’s love.”