Members of the St. Anselm Parish choir, Tinton Falls, singing “If You Love Me" by Joel Raney in their "COVID-19: Stories of Hope" video.
Members of the St. Anselm Parish choir, Tinton Falls, singing “If You Love Me" by Joel Raney in their "COVID-19: Stories of Hope" video.
In the early weeks and months of the pandemic shutdown, Catholic families and parish communities turned to technology to stay connected to their faith and with one another. With so many eyes on digital screens, the Diocese of Trenton began to encourage the faithful to share video reflections on how they were coping with COVID-19 and where they found hope during the crisis.

That outreach resulted in a special curated series titled “COVID-19: Stories of Hope,” which was launched nearly a year ago. Since then, 19 videos have been included in the series, which together have garnered 9,000 views and more than 1,000 engagements on social media to date.

The first video in the series featured Rose, Bob and their two daughters, a family from Mary, Mother of the Church Parish, Bordentown. Titled “Coping with lifestyle changes,” the video takes viewers through the sudden changes the parents experienced moving from a regular work schedule to online meetings, and their children’s activities either going to a virtual platform or getting cancelled altogether. Like many, they quickly realized that the quarantine was going to last longer than expected. In response, Rose decided she wanted to make more out of her time in quarantine. She began attending virtual daily Mass, spending virtual dinners with other family members and attending virtual Holy Hours at night, none of which she had been able to do prior to the quarantine. Doing these new things gave Rose hope that better days would come.

Marianne Hartman, diocesan director of Multimedia Production, said the videos received such positive engagement on social media, that she and her team pursued more stories, and the topics grew to include creative ways in which parishes and schools connected with their communities during such isolating times.

The most popular video came from Donovan Catholic High School, Toms River, which highlighted a class project that led to the writing and production of the original song, "When It's Over," by the school jazz choir class.  Through classes via the Zoom App, teacher Cindy Wald, and her son, Erich Wald, led the students through the steps to writing the song.

Other videos, ranging from 90 seconds to 5 minutes, included those focusing on the youth group from St. William the Abbot Parish, Howell; Tom and Vanessa from Ocean County on their family activities; Savannah from Donovan Catholic on “Making Connections During the Pandemic;" Msgr. Sam Sirianni, rector of St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold, speaking about the Co-Cathedral’s Reconciliation Tent; Father Stephen Sansevere reflecting on his being a newly ordained priest; the choir from St. Anselm Parish, Tinton Falls, singing “If You Love Me”; Holy Eucharist Parish, Tabernacle’s “Christmas in July” program to benefit the New Lisbon Development Center; Our Lady of Mount Carmel School, Asbury Park, on Virtual Learning; Monmouth University’s Virtual Catholic Campus Ministry; Father Jorge Bedoya, parochial vicar in St. Joan of Arc Parish, Marlton, in “Save lives, wear your mask”; the Pangilinan family; the Mountain Biking Priests; Returning to Mass, and “Celebrating Life at Notre Dame High School.”

Of the “COVID-19: Stories of Hope” series, Hartman said, “It was great to see what people throughout the Diocese were doing, especially when we were on total lockdown.”  She added how amazed she was at the creative ways they found to share their faith and reach out to those in their community safely.

“Things as simple as a song to lift our spirits, to donations for those in need . . . these stories were a unique way of uniting us in a time where we were all so separated,” Hartman said.

The entire series is available for viewing on the Diocese of Trenton Youtube. The Diocese welcomes video submissions from others who want to share their “COVID-19: Stories of Hope.” To submit go to: https://dioceseoftrenton.org/stories-of-hope.