Coronavirus News: Queens priest takes Mass digital, to the streets during pandemic

WOODSIDE, Queens (WABC) -- In a time of cloistering amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a priest and six nuns have been taking their mission to the streets of Woodside, Queens.

Father Christopher O'Connor, pastor of Blessed Virgin Mary Help of Christians (formerly St. Mary's Winfield) leads a flock of the Catholic faithful during a mission of uncertainty.

"I just wanted people to remain connected to the parish during this time, really not knowing how long before they came back to church," he said. "One of the last times I did it, people came out of the houses, keeping social distancing. We would pray for a few moments, and we give them a blessing. A lot of tears. It was very moving. It was hard for me not to cry as well."

On March 15, 600 parishioners came to his last public Mass. And that's when he began a series of daily live streaming Masses and prayer services.

"I am overwhelmed by the amount of love and support from my parishioners and people outside the parish," he said. "I do what's called a holy hour every day at 3 p.m., and then I do a good night message at 7 p.m. every evening."

Six nuns from Colombia who came to New York City for missionary work became stranded due to the virus and are chipping in to help.

"They help me with all the on line ministries that we have been doing," Fr. O'Connor said.

At this point, Fr. O'Connor sees elements of digital Masses continuing after the pandemic ends, but he's anxious to fully welcome back his congregation.

"Nothing replaces being inside God's house, praying together and being part of the community," he said.

And it is that connection with the faithful that Fr. O'Connor says is so important during these troubled times.

"It's the main theme that I try to get across," he said. "That they are loved. and they are not forgotten."

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