From online spiritual conversation
to virtual retreats
Even though we often accuse technology (especially social networks) of keeping people apart and being substitutes for a “real” life, today, while a large proportion of the Canadian population is in self isolation due to Coronavirus Covid-19, these same tools are vital to sustaining our need for human contact. So, in a Jesuit context, how can technology help us to maintain personal connections and build community — the lifelines for the various apostolates across the Province?
One idea is to take our gifts and adapt them to the new context of physical isolation where we find ourselves living in. For example, if you work at a retreat centre and have suddenly found that your calendar has freed up over the next few weeks, this could be an occasion to transform your methods and reach out to the same people who have been forced to cancel their plans for spiritual nourishment.
This could mean using Skype to give spiritual accompaniment to the retreatants, Zoom to offer retreat conferences online, or YouTube Live to broadcast a mass.
Here are some of our recommendations. This list is a working document which we’ll continue to update. Feel free to share your ideas or what you’re doing as well.
The necessary hardware is not uncommon. In most cases, you only need a computer with a webcam and a microphone, as well as an Internet connection. If you live with other people who also work online, don’t forget to check with your providers about the limits of your connection: you may have to invest in a new plan with enough bandwidth to support multiple users.
If you don’t have access to any remote communication or collaboration tools, the Province’s IT office recommends that you use Microsoft 365, which offers online applications for communication, collaboration and work, notably Teams, Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Notes.
These applications are already available to anyone with access to an account on jesuits.org and jesuites.org. As a rule, only the members of the Curia have access to the desktop version. The Provincial team, is available by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to help you obtain or recover your access to your existing jesuits.org or jesuites.org accounts.
If you don’t have a jesuits.org or jesuites.org account (i.e. our non-Jesuit colleagues) you can create a Microsoft 365 account for free here. This download includes a simplified version of the most important tools.
Education and Technical Support
It is very easy to learn how to use these tools. Follow this link for a general guide to Microsoft 365, which includes (video) tutorials for each of the applications.
Some helpful how-to articles:
Are you a spiritual director? Do you have a one-on-one meeting planned? Why not use the telephone?
But if you would prefer something more personal, with video, there are many other tools available: Hangouts (Google), FaceTime or Messenger (Facebook). Each of these tools requires signing up to their platform and, of course, the Internet. People from outside can also access meetings via Teams (Microsoft) without having a Microsoft account. Here’s how schedule and run them.
As soon your chosen application is set up, controlling it is fairly straightforward.
Group Meetings (5-10 people)
If you want a group of people to interact (for example, for a spiritual conversation, Liturgy of the Word, an educational class or communal discernment) you can leverage Zoom or Free Conference. Both offer several free or cheap plans and are relatively easy to use. Teams is also still a great useful tool for group meetings and doesn’t require people from outside to sign up to join in. Just invite them and they can join in without much hassle. One example: this article offers a model to celebrate the Liturgy of the Word online and foster communion.
In case you want to speak with little interaction from a larger audience (a homily, speech, large conference, etc.) you can stream a video on YouTube Live (like Salt and Light’s online daily mass) or, if you’re a leader or an institution with an importance audience on Facebook, you can use Facebook Live (in the same way than James Martin, S.J.) It is crucial to leverage the channels that your audience is already used to.
If technology is a barrier, leaders can post their content on their website (e.g. homily, reflection, etc) and distribute it via social media or e-mail to their community.
Check out these examples of online apostolic work by both Jesuit and non-Jesuits:
Our Lady of Lourdes is uploading their Sunday Mass online. The online mass streams every Sunday at 11:30am ET. The link: www.lourdes.to/tv. For those who are unable to watch at that time, the Mass is available for viewing afterwards. They also plan to record and upload other events, such as the Way of the Cross.
The Jesuits of Canada delivered two Liturgies of the Word online, along with time for spiritual conversation via Zoom and promoted them via our Facebook page.