When the Covid-19 pandemic closed churches for the public celebration of Mass last year, Deacon Pete Gummer of Corpus Christi Parish wanted to foster communication with parishioners, so he began making telephone calls.

He has “no clue” how many people he contacted in the parish that includes St. John Church in St. Johnsbury, St. Elizabeth Church in Lyndonville and Our Lady Queen of Peace Church in Danville.

It was a way to build community even though parishioners could not gather together for Mass.

Deacon Gummere made many calls over the course of the quarantine, before public Masses at churches resumed: “I’d chat with them. Empathize with them. Praise God and respond to needs they expressed.”

In some cases he made referrals.

And he prayed with them.

“I realized people need to pray together,” Deacon Gummere said.

So he set up a Zoom account and invited parishioners to pray the rosary online on Thursdays and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy on Fridays. Both prayer opportunities continue with lay leaders.

“As a deacon, I need to help animate the gifts of the faithful,” Deacon Gummere said.

He set up the Zoom meetings to be simple and user friendly, and many homebound or semi-homebound parishioners join in. “People wanted to continue even though we’re back to church,” he said. “It’s inspiring to see people taking advantage of what’s available” even if it means learning a bit of new technology. “People need to use the resources they have at home and be connected.”

The Zoom prayer opportunities are both spiritually nourishing and personally enriching. “That connection is important,” Deacon Gummere said. “They want to stay connected to the parish, and this is a prayerful, shared experience.”

Parishioners are now making the phone calls the deacon began, letting other parishioners know they are remembered and connected. “They appreciate the calls,” Deacon Gummere said.

He is open to other online ministries as needs arise.

—Originally published in the Winter 2021 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.