Senior Adriana Watkins set candles up around her laptop at the coffee table in her living room. Dimming the lights, she sat with her roommate and watched Rev. Casey Beaumier, S.J., deliver the Candlelight Mass. But instead of sitting in the pews of St. Joseph’s Chapel on Upper, she was in her family home in North Carolina, watching Beaumier on Zoom live from his iPad.
Boston College Mission and Ministry canceled all in-person Mass services on March 14 by order of Cardinal Sean O’Malley of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, according to Billy Kavula, a campus minister at BC.
“We didn’t have a choice,” Kavula said.
Prior to O’Malley’s announcement, Mission and Ministry planned to continue services with an amended schedule before March 15, the deadline for students without housing extensions to leave campus for the semester. Campus Ministry planned to deliver an 8 p.m. vigil Mass on March 14, as well as two Mass services the following day. At those services, there would be restrictions in place in an attempt to keep patrons healthy—holy water was removed from the front of the chapels, the Eucharist would only be delivered to the hands of a person rather than the mouth, and holding hands during prayer and any physical contact during Mass was to be discouraged, Kavula said.
In suspending Mass, Kavula said worshippers are under no religious obligation to attend services.
“When [O’Malley] suspended all the Masses … we were also dispensed from the obligation to go to Mass on Sundays,” Kavula said. “That means that we’re not sinning by not going to Mass.”
Mission and Ministry started Candlelight Mass, which normally takes place Monday through Thursday at 10 p.m. in St. Joseph’s Chapel, 11 years ago, according to Beaumier. The day that BC announced students were to leave campus for the semester, Beaumier unexpectedly presided over the last in-person Candlelight Mass for the semester. Along with Rev. César Muziotti, S.J., and Rev. Michael Magree, S.J., the three celebrated the Mass amid campus chaos.
“We kind of celebrated that Mass together, and then we sent the students home with the candles, and it was just sad,” Beaumier said. “They’re great kids. That’s been a really important community for them, and I care a lot for them.”
Beaumier made the move to stream Candlelight Mass via Zoom on March 19, the day of the Solemnity of St. Joseph, which celebrates the namesake of St. Joseph’s Chapel. Over 100 people tuned into the Zoom stream throughout the Mass, which Beaumier said included everything necessary for the celebration.
Many of the students that attend Candlelight Mass during the school year are regulars, dubbing themselves the “Candlelight Crew,” Beaumier said. Watkins, a columnist for The Heights and MCAS ’20, is one such student. She said she goes to Candlelight Mass whenever she can.
Watkins said Mass is an integral part of her friendships—she and her friends frequently attend services at parishes throughout Boston. Watkins and her roommate, who was staying with her following leaving campus, joined their other friends in celebrating the Mass via Zoom.
“It was really good to know that even though we’re all sort of scattered around the country, we could still do the thing together that’s most important to us and the most important part of our day,” Watkins said. “We can still share that in common in some way.”
While there is an effort to build a church community online during these unprecedented occurrences with the current pandemic, Beaumier also expressed concern over what worship will look like with Easter approaching.
“We’re trying to figure it out as we go and that’s where I think gentleness has to be present,” Beaumier said. “Because without gentleness, I think alienation and fear reign. We don’t need that. It’s scary enough. But gentleness soothes and gives us encouragement in the midst of the craziness of what’s going on.”
Featured Image by Madeleine Romance / Heights Editor