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COVID-19: A pastor’s perspective: Innovative Changes in the Parish Bulletin

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Father David BonnarFor any pastor, Monday comes ever so quickly: Tempus fugit (“time flies”). Monday is the day typically when every pastor works with his staff to put the weekly bulletin together for the coming Sunday.

Many parishioners, I know, look forward to reading the bulletin each week. Some enjoy it so much that they read the bulletin as they sit in the pew before Mass begins. Historically, church bulletins have promoted all of the essential elements of parish life, including Mass schedules, Mass intentions and pertinent information on activities, classes and programs. The parish bulletin also contains information on the latest baptisms, weddings and funerals. There is also the necessary financial data, like the amount of the previous week’s collections. Some pastors also use the bulletin to write a letter or reflection to their faithful.

The shared bulletin, produced for the two parishes in which I serve, is 16 pages. Given the fact that we have two schools, along with two vibrant parishes seeking to be one in July, sometimes we need even more space. There are many weeks that the bulletin editor, Paula, has to make some hard decisions as to what can be published and what cannot due to excess demand and limited space.

Because there are currently no public Masses and the churches remain closed, one might think that the weekly bulletin would be temporarily paused. But most bulletins today are not only published in print but also online. In fact, the online version is often available earlier than the print version.

One of the challenges for every parish now is that, because of the closure of churches and the restrictions therein, there is not much to promote or advertise. Thus, because we continue to have a contract with the bulletin vendor, one of the first questions I faced early on was, “How are we ever going to fill 16 pages of the bulletin when nothing can happen?”

The answer to this question came quickly. With the help of clergy and staff, we suddenly transformed our bulletin into a magazine. Each week, there are articles about different aspects of the Faith. This weekend, for instance, our staff focuses on Divine Mercy. Next weekend, the new magazine will be dedicated to the holy Eucharist, as it would have been the first of three weekends for first holy Communions.

As circumstances in life change, the Church must always adapt accordingly. With few, if any, opportunities for personal engagement, the parish bulletin has become even more important. What was consistently used as a means of information has now become a very important tool for formation.

Like livestreaming the holy Mass and devotions, transforming the parish bulletin into a weekly magazine has become yet another necessary modification employed for the good of the Church. Next week, we are going to take a further step in this regard. On Wednesday evening, we clergy will begin a new weekly segment on our YouTube network entitled “Ask the Fathers.” Parishioners will be invited to submit questions to the clergy through email and, in a 20-minute program, we priests will do our best to offer responses.

In many ways during this pandemic we have all felt the reality of limitation. And yet, as confining as this may seem, we are still being stretched out of our comfort zones to try new and innovative things all to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ and continue being the Church.

FATHER DAVID J. BONNAR, editor of The Priest, is a pastor of 15 years in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, where he has served in numerous roles. Follow and like The Priest magazine on Facebook.

 
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