Church services and masses are suspended but Loveland area pastors and ministers are finding ways to reach their assembly: St. Columban Pastor, Rev. Larry Tensi talks about reaching parishioners during COVID-19

By:  Chuck Gibson

 LOVELAND, OH (April 28, 2020) – St. Columban is a Catholic community of about 2,000 families located in Loveland and led by Rev. Larry Tensi, Pastor there since 2003.

St. Columban Catholic Church in Loveland, OH (Chuck Gibson) 

Rev. Tensi was quick to point out that each congregation throughout the Loveland community is autonomous in finding their own way to reach their assembly. As a parishioner of St. Columban, I reached out to Fr. Larry first, but Loveland Beacon is reaching out to the leaders of the churches in Loveland. It is not hard to imagine in today’s world of communication technology, our church leaders are finding creative ways to make regular church services available to the people. You can drive through Loveland and see the messages on church signs heralding “live-streamed” services. St. Columban is also reaching their parish family online.

Rev. Larry Tensi, Pastor, St. Col;umban Catholic Church & School (Provided) 

“We are doing video of all masses online; we did all liturgical services for Holy Week. Everything has been online,” said Tensi. “We’ve done prayer things online; we did Taize prayer service online. We have some music and things, we have prayers online. I feel sorry for congregations who have no online capability or visibility, because they are really stuck.”

 Tensi says they have gone beyond the normal Sunday and weekday masses offering special online liturgical videos. The Taize video service received a huge positive response from the St. Columban community. The trademark of a Taize service is distinctive music and song during a candlelit prayer service. Another unique online presentation featured Rev. Tensi with his dog Sami in the church delivering a very special Easter message in the form of a poem he authored in the cadence of “Twas the Night before Christmas” – which received a great response. The St. Columban website is a vast resource for spiritual needs and everyday needs as family’s shelter in place.

Rev. Larry Tensi and his dog, Sami, received a great response for this special Easter message video (Chuck Gibson) 

“Apart from that, we’re going to pretend we don’t have it,” Tensi said, meaning reaching people who don’t have online access.

 St. Columban sent a letter out to parishioners asking them to write letters just as Fr. Larry is doing. It was a letter focused on gratitude. The letter expressed his gratitude for first responders, people who are still giving, and people who are writing to people. It suggested if they want to write, the church would send them 10 names. They received immediate response from about 20 people who were then asked to write letters to people from a specific list.

People also responded very positively to the Taize Prayer video (Provided) 

“We divided it up. We took the names of everyone over 75,” Tensi explained. “We have 20 of us who are writing people every day.”

 St. Columban letter writers have a list of over 175 people over 75 years of age to whom they are writing. The notes inquire about the well-being of the person; if they are doing okay. The note offers help from St. Columban volunteers who will shop for them if they have any needs. There is a list of those people who will help.

“With that we have people making masks,” said Tensi. “We’re sending those to B-North, Christ, hospitals and doctors who are still meeting. There is a lot going on beside the video things.”

Tensi is writing 10 letters a day. He is simply going from A-Z in the directory. He says they are “very personal” notes. It is his way of reaching a lot of people who do not have internet.

 “I think we’re doing a pretty good job reaching out to our assembly through internet, through mail,” he said. “A lot of people have responded to all of that in a very positive way. People like getting mail, real mail, letters, not bills or junk mail. It’s really to check in. We want to make sure people are okay.”

Rev. Larry Tensi begins Sunday mass on video (Chuck Gibson)

There’s been a lot of feedback in response to the online masses, prayers, music and links to resources for help and spiritual meditations. People have been very grateful and very complimentary of the streaming. The response was especially strong for the special Easter poem reading with Rev. Tensi and his dog Sami.

“Sami got 3,000 hits,” said Tensi. “People were shocked she lay still for five minutes. We’re doing things like that to help people connect.”

 Tensi says he has three lists of people he’s writing to each day. The A-Z from the directory, those from the 175+ seniors over 75 years old, and the people he visits all the time; those who can’t attend mass because of aging or health issues.

A candle for the light of Chirst, and St. Columban directory represents people on the altar during video mass at St. Columban (Provided)

“I really miss them. It’s weird not to see them every day,” Tensi said. “I miss seeing everybody. We don’t know when we can come back. It’s very strange.”

St.. Columban and area churches are empty during COVID-19 shutdown (Provided) 

Here is how St. Columban is nurturing the spiritual health of their congregation:

  • Masses are video recorded for viewing online
  • Special prayers, prayer services, music, and other video messages are online
  • Pastor, Rev. Larry Tensi writes and sends personal notes via mail
  • They engaged the people of St. Columban in writing letters to the seniors over 75 years old checking in and offering volunteer help to meet any needs
  • Links to resources for spiritual needs and personal needs are available online
  • Columban e-news goes out weekly with updated information and a message of hope from Fr. Larry
  • Columban actively reaches out via Social Media to connect
  • Columban parishioners are engaged making masks, and volunteering services throughout the community with St. Vincent DePaul, NEST, LIFE Food Pantry and various other outreach programs helping those in need.
  • A visit to St. Columban online will connect people with a variety of worship aids to guide their spiritual health through this COVID-19 crisis and beyond.

NOTE: St. Columban Church is open for silent prayer and meditation during the following hours:

Monday – Friday:  9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Saturday:  2:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. including Confession from 3:00 – 4:00 p.m.

Sunday:  7:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.       

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