On December 8th, we celebrated the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. It’s a beautiful feast day with an incredible message and teaching not only about Mary, but about Christ, Himself. (All Marian doctrines point to Christ if you really think about it.)
Anyway, this post isn’t about the actual feast day, but rather access to the Masses celebrating it. I live in a city with hundreds and hundreds of parishes. In fact, I live within a 3 mile radius of about 5 Catholic parishes. So finding a Mass to go to should be, in theory, something easy to do.
Enter problem #1. It was a Saturday.
The Church can allow for dispensations (temporary relaxation of a particular rule) that permit Holy Days of Obligation that land on a Saturday to be moved to a Sunday. While helpful, this can cause some confusion as to whether or not one is obliged to go to Mass on that particular day. This year’s Immaculate Conception Feast fell on a Saturday and most bishops decided to keep it on that Saturday and NOT move it to a Sunday which is just fine (and in my opinion, the way it should be done anyway).
However, when I started calling places Saturday morning, many offices were closed because, it was, in fact, a Saturday. I got an answering machine at one parish where the pastor seemed sad to inform me that they had an Immaculate Conception Mass at 9 am (which had already passed by this time.) I looked up and called another parish which had an answering service that had no idea it was a special day and the parish had not told them about any special Masses being held that day, just the regular vigil Mass.
Here’s where the failure enters:
I was looking up all of these parishes using my phone’s internet. When I googled the parish next to me, the only relevant result was a “Parishes Online” profile with no special Mass times. That’s why I called the parish and promptly got the voice message. I googled another parish nearby. I was excited to find a nice, crisp website but saddened that it had no information anywhere about the Immaculate Conception or special Mass times.
I thought to myself, “they might have something in their bulletin” and so searched for their bulletins. Problem : they only allowed you to see the most current bulletin that happened to be updated and so I “missed” the bulletin with this day’s Mass times. I called them : answering service.
I kept searching and searching with the same poor website results but finally found a parish website where I was able to download an old bulletin and look up the Mass times via their intentions page and found a Mass I could attend.
Bottom line – The Immaculate Conception is a big deal and going to Mass on Holy Days of Obligation is a big deal as well. The local parishes surrounding me did not reach out to us Catholics to let us know: A) What the Immaculate Conception is about. B) What a “Holy Day of Obligation” is, and C) The special Mass times that were set up for this particular date.
Use your parish website for more than posting the bulletin. Use your website to teach and keep your flock up to date on more than just your upcoming fundraiser. The Immaculate Conception information should have been FRONT AND CENTER and easy to find for both your parishioners and those who might be visiting. The obligatory feasts of Christmas and Mary, Mother of God are coming up as well.
Is your parish website ready to welcome visitors with the news of Christ’s birth as well as when people can come celebrate with you?
Guest blog post by Ashley Collins, co-founder and director for E-Ministry of Peter and Paul Ministries, a non-profit aiding parishes, dioceses, and other Catholic institutions in their catechetical ministry through retreats, Bible studies, websites, and social media, so as to further Christ’s Church. He blogs about music and spirituality at SonofBosco.com.