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Faith and Family: Local priest posts videos to give students reason to smile

NATCHEZ — A new age has dawned for pastors in the Miss-Lou who continue to connect with their congregations in a way that the Centers for Disease Control would approve of in the era of COVID-19.

Before local Catholic Schools closed their doors to prevent spreading the disease, Father Mark Schoffner, St. Mary Basilica’s Parochial Vicar, said he would visit the schools every day around lunchtime and catch up with the students between their lunch break and classes.

“I can’t stand school breaks. I just about lose my mind,” Schoffner said. “… I’ve got 600 and something kids that I think about every day.”

When the schools closed, Schoffner said he missed the students dearly and thought perhaps it would make them happy to see a familiar face in places that are familiar to them, like the school’s courtyard and playground.

He began posting light-hearted videos of himself on the Cathedral School Facebook page as a way to interact with students and give them something to smile about, he said.

“Before I was in seminary I was a registered nurse. Hospital work can be very depressing. There are a lot of situations in life that you could just break down and cry about, and it’s OK to cry. … But if you don’t bring levity and light to a situation, then you will just break down and cry all of the time,” Schoffner said.

On the playground, Schoffner sat on the swing set and joked about eating dandelions. Thursday in the courtyard, he told his students a historical story about the feast of St. Joseph.

“I miss them dearly,” Schoffner said. “… I do it for myself, but I also think kids enjoy being able to see you and know that they are being listened to and that someone is praying for them.”

Although not every church pastor has taken to posting funny videos, a few churches have started posting sermons on social media instead of hosting services in the church building.

First Baptist Church of Natchez also began posting their Wednesday and Sunday Bible lessons on the church’s Facebook page earlier this week.

Schoffner said he and St. Mary’s pastor, Father Scott Thomas, would be hosting the 10 a.m. Sunday mass in a live stream online at greenwavesports.live, where traditionally school athletic events have been posted. Videos of daily masses are also published on St. Mary’s Facebook page, Schoffner said.