by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — During her daily commute from Emporia to Topeka, teacher Holly Aranda used to start her day by listening to Scripture from a Catholic website made available in an audio format.
But that changed in mid-March when the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools, her commutes ended and she was forced to teach from home via Zoom video conferencing.
“[My commute] was a very faithful, spiritual time to listen to the readings and start the day before beginning my vocation of being a teacher,” said Aranda, who works for Auburn-Washburn USD 437.
She missed that special part of her daily routine. Fortunately, she found something even better: the daily Mass celebrated by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann in his home chapel, shared via his personal Facebook page.
Early on, Archbishop Naumann urged his Facebook “parishioners” to look for the blessings they might find in the pandemic.
“One of the blessings [for me] was it gave me more time with God on a daily basis,” said Aranda.
The archbishop’s Masses became “a part of my day,” she said.
From March to early July, Aranda found spiritual solace and sustenance every weekday at Archbishop Naumann’s 8:30 a.m. Masses.
And she wasn’t alone. Although not always able to attend live, by the end of the day, thousands of people would view the archbishop’s daily Masses from all over the archdiocese — and not a few from his hometown of St. Louis.
Aranda, a convert to the Catholic faith, was even able to evangelize with these Masses.
“One thing I’ve done is I’ve shared [Archbishop Naumann’s] daily Masses through Facebook Share on my Facebook page,” she said. “And I’ve felt that’s one way to minister to other people who don’t know about the faith.
“You’d be surprised. Several of my friends have joined in the Mass, and they’re not even Catholic.”
Kathy Blasco has always wanted to go to daily Mass but found it impossible because of time and distance. She’s a resident of Lenexa but is a member of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in the Diocese of Kansas City, Missouri.
During the second week of Lent, a notification about Archbishop Naumann’s Masses showed up on her Facebook page. Viewing his Masses “became a way of life,” for Blasco.
“This works for me,” she said. “I feel the day wouldn’t be complete without starting it with Archbishop Naumann and his Mass. He’s very respectful of the time constraints. He keeps his ‘homilettes’ not much longer than five minutes. He makes everything very interesting.
“There are some days [it seemed] like he knew the words to speak that I needed to hear for that day, without even knowing. I feel my day has started off on the right foot by starting with his Mass. I feel so much gratitude for him.”
Blasco described Archbishop Naumann’s Facebook Masses as “a lifeline” during the lockdown months when all public Masses were canceled, and churches were closed.
Unlike the many public Masses Archbishop Naumann has celebrated, his home chapel Masses were simple and quiet — no organist, no cantor, no readers, no master of ceremonies, no acolytes, no concelebrants — just him.
During these Masses, he had a very “pastoral” vibe, according to Beth Blankenship, a member of St. Pius X Parish in Mission and advertising manager for The Leaven.
“[The Masses] are really personal,” said Blankenship. “It seems like he’s talking straight to you. They’re very relaxed — everything’s very proper — but relaxed at the same time. He explains a lot of things — like one time he told about his chalice.”
For example, she said, “his mom’s diamonds from her engagement and wedding rings are embedded in the chalice. It means a lot to him.”
She even found his voice “soothing,” said Blankenship, at a time when it seemed that all the news was bad.
Mary Sanderson Harsh, a parishioner of Sacred Heart Parish in Tonganoxie, can seldom go to Mass because of her physical disabilities. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, she had to get up very early to catch a televised Mass.
But this past March, she read in The Leaven about the archbishop’s weekday and Sunday Masses on Facebook.
These Masses gave her focus, and “spiritual tools” to work with, she said. They put her in a faith-oriented frame of mind.
“It was a breath of fresh air to have Mass every day,” said Harsh. “It starts my morning every day. It has really been a joy.”
During Lent and before Easter, it seemed to Harsh that she would miss out on the holiest time of the Christian year. That didn’t happen.
“This year’s Lent, I was almost dreading it because I knew all the churches were closed down and all the usual things Catholics do during Lent would be missed,” she said.
“But when they opened up online Masses, it opened things up for me to live my faith a little stronger,” she added. “I had one of the best Easters I’ve ever had. I really did draw closer to God.”
Archbishop Naumann stopped celebrating daily Mass on Facebook on July 4. After a Mass on July 2, he explained that he needed to resume a more normal schedule and wouldn’t always be available.
Instead, daily Mass will be streamed at 9 a.m. via Facebook by Father Andrew Strobl, pastor of St. John Paul II Parish in Olathe. Archbishop Naumann will, however, continue to offer daily scriptural reflections.
Both the Masses and reflections can be found on the Facebook pages of Archbishop Naumann, the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and St. John Paul II Parish.