From SIGNIS Caribbean: signiscaribbean.com: https://www.facebook.com/signiscaribbean
Not unlike the rest of the world, the countries involved in SIGNIS Caribbean were caught completely off guard with the onslaught of COVID-19. No-one could have foreseen what was to come or how greatly it would impact our way of life.
During these past months, we have rallied together in the hope of creating a new way forward to regain some normalcy within our Caribbean countries and communities.
The member countries of SIGNIS Caribbean meet monthly online and offer updates on activities, challenges, and plans. The various responses to the present pandemic are shared and as most countries went into lockdown, the implementation of digital platforms was no longer a choice but became a necessity.
As we donned the much-recommended face masks, we also had to remove our masks of inhibitions of the digital world! We had to embrace technology to celebrate Mass and to continue reaching congregations and spreading the Good News.
Most dioceses were not ready for this leap into technology and as such, had to adapt to change, not just for themselves but for the sake of the people who depended on them.
Here are some excerpts from their reports:
The Archdiocese of Nassau, Bahamas adapted well. They have daily Mass with their archbishop and Sunday Mass is livestreamed from all parishes. They have embarked on an evaluation of the parishes for proper audio, video and lighting and possible camera installation.
Alliances have been formed with the Knights of Columbus for evening prayer via Zoom and Catholic Education to produce digital graduations. Funerals were being streamed via ZOOM within the COVID-19 restriction guidelines.
The Diocese of Bridgetown, Barbados embraced WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube and Zoom to continue communication with their parishioners. Engagement on their social media platforms has increased since the pandemic. As such, they have invested in much-needed equipment and robotic cameras to meet their increasing technical demands.
The Diocese of Belize City, Belize faced some challenges with their internet but that was soon rectified to allow for streaming. They have faced a decline in collecting information for their print media but are thankful to international and Caribbean news sources to keep them abreast of current affairs.
The Diocese of Willemstad, Curacao comprises six islands which are naturally divided by sea and language. They have all embraced digital broadcasts via Facebook and video conferencing for both the Church and the education system. There has been a limited attendance at Mass and schools with most people favouring online involvement. For those who are not fortunate to access the internet, the Church has been printing hard copies of documents for both church and school use.
The Diocese of Roseau, Dominica was grateful to their generous congregation who donated their time and expertise to help utilise the apps and equipment for the building up of their digital footprint. They also took their print media online to ensure the continuity of the newspaper in digital format.
The Diocese of St George’s, Grenada was able to conduct daily livestreamed Mass from a church located above their studio. As the number of COVID-19 cases decreased, they were able to livestream from four locations across the country but close enough to the studio for live Sunday Mass and to help create a variety for their viewing parishioners.
This resulted in an increase in viewers and listeners on their Catholic radio station. They have also implemented digital media with an online newspaper replacing the printed version.
The Archdiocese of Castries, St Lucia embraced the use of YouTube as one of their priests already had a large following and the older community members preferred YouTube to Facebook. After some time, they acquired much needed equipment and continued to build on digital services.
The Archdiocese of Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago has seen large growth in the number of visitors to their website catholictt.org due to the new digital content that is being updated consistently. They have taken it a step further offering digital subscriptions for their weekly Catholic News with online payment options, noting that it is much cheaper to produce in digital format than print.
Trinity TV, also based in Trinidad, has proved to be a ‘lifeline’ for many during these times. They have been at the service of the Archdiocese to provide ‘live’ daily Mass with the Archbishop presiding and bringing messages of hope and inspiration to all.
As the movement of persons became more restricted, Trinity TV had to find ways to keep their productions alive. They incorporated a hybrid mixture of techniques adding Zoom participation for weekly prayer meetings and combining ‘live studio’ and ‘pre-taped’ video clips. The cable station also broadcasts in Barbados, Jamaica, St Lucia, and St Vincent & The Grenadines.
It has been a difficult period for all but through the use of digital technology, SIGNIS Caribbean’s member countries have been successful in finding methods to continue bringing uplifting Catholic content to their individual dioceses and parishes.
As we look toward the future, we are constantly improving and evaluating methods for continuity in spreading the Gospel and to building Catholic Communications in the region.
CAST launches in Antilles in January
SIGNIS Caribbean will be offering a comprehensive training programme to the AEC (Antilles Episcopal Conference) region.
The CAST (Communication for the Antilles Specialist Training) Programme will be launched in January 2021 and will run for three consecutive years allowing for participation of all 18 dioceses of the AEC.
The idea is to create production resource pools to assist communication growth in the region.
After the success of its pilot programme in Trinidad (January–August 2020), the programme has been restructured as a virtual course. The facilitators and management team of CAST are presently completing preparations for the start of the programme.