The Beacon — The Beacon July 14, 2016
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Lights! Camera! Action!
Michel Wojcik

Pastor answers viewers’ questions about faith on Facebook video show

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series that will explore how people across the Paterson Diocese have been using technology in interesting ways to evangelize.]

PATERSON Father Enrique Corona, pastor of St. Michael and St. Agnes parishes here, cracks a joke on camera. Wearing headphones, he sits behinds a microphone, sips a cup of coffee and reads a question by a viewer of his Spanishlanguage video show, streamed live weekdays on the social media website Facebook.

On air, the Cuban-born Father Corona replies to the question “Why are priests called ‘Fathers?’ ” His answer: priests serve God’s people much like fathers — and like God the Father — loves them and cares for them pastorally and spiritually. A recent afternoon finds the priest filling his hour-long video broadcast on Facebook Live — strangely titled “Without Hair on My Tongue” — with deep reflections, as well as singing, dancing and laughter — all while answering viewers’ questions in Spanish about the faith. With every reply, he cracks a smile that expresses his great joy in undertaking this rather serious mission of New Evan - gelization: using the latest technology to spread the “Good News” of the Gospel to all corners of the Diocese, the U.S. and the world.

“I’m very happy with the Facebook Live and am surprised with the reception that it’s been receiving. It’s great to have the power to reach so many people,” Father Corona told The Beacon after a recent broadcast of “Without Hair on My Tongue,” which airs from an office at St. Michael’s on weekdays from 4 to 5 p.m. “We have a good time. Viewers ask me many different questions. I allow people to get out what’s in their hearts and minds [including criticism of Church]. With the spirit of the Church, I try to answer their questions in a way to help bring them back into communion with Church and with Christ,” he said.

Father Corona hosts his Facebook Live show on his “Enrique A C. Lopez” page on the social media website. Started about two months ago, the broadcast already attracts more than 500 viewers from around the Diocese, the U.S. and the world, including Spain, Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Italy. The priest credits the show — along with his other Catholic media enterprises — for a significant increase in attendance at the weekday noon Mass at St. Michael’s — from 10 to 50 people.

“It’s nice to see some many new faces at Mass. Many people don’t even know that St. Michael’s is open,” Father Corona said.

Over the past year, Father Corona has become a one-man media mogul. He posts information and reflections on the social media Web site twitter at “ecorona@.” The priest also airs the weekday noon Mass on the Internet radio station, which has attracted 300 listeners, since it began nine months ago, and which broadcasts audio from the Facebook Live show, he said.

“Father Enrique has the gift of apostolic preaching. He has fun for an hour, singing and dancing,” said Ann Ryan, a Eucharistic minister and catechist at Santa Clara Parish in Oxnard, Calif., who watches the Facebook Live show. “You can ask any question that you want and Father Enrique says the right things [in accordance with Church teachings]. The Holy Spirit works through him. It’s great,” she said.

On the Facebook Live show, Father Corona chooses to spend his hour-long broadcasts fielding reasonable questions or comments from viewers, instead of dedicating them to specific topics. Viewers have inquired about such topics as Scripture; the Mass, such as “Why do we receive Holy Communion by mouth or by hand?”; and even difficult topics such as the sex-abuse scandal. On air, the priest reads questions that viewers post on his Facebook page, on WhatsApp messaging application, under the live-streaming screen, on his email and on voice mail. In addition, the host can reply to comments under the video. Occasionally, Father Corona invites callers or live guests on the broadcast, he said.

“The title of the show is an expression in Spanish that is loosely translated, ‘Bring it on. Ask me any question. Nothing with will stop me from answering [because I have no hair on my tongue],’ ” said Father Corona, who installed a simple equipment set-up for the broadcast that includes a computer, a mixing board and a few microphones and headphones.

Father Corona reserves Friday on the Facebook Live show to highlight musicians and singers, who perform specifically Catholic music. For the future, he plans to expand the hours of the 4 p.m. broadcast, add an hour newscast in the morning and eventually offer programming all day. Recently on Facebook Live, the priest aired Eucharistic Adoration at the diocesan Catholic Charismatic Center at St. Michael’s, which he leads.

Last year, Facebook launched Facebook Live so users can share their activities on video in real time with the opportunity for their friends and family on the Web site to interact and respond. Users of the application have included parents, hobbyists, athletes, journalists, chefs and musicians — both celebrities and everyday people. Visitors can replay the videos of past broadcasts on the hosts’ pages, according to Facebook.

One recent guest host was Father Julio Barrios, parochial vicar of St. Philip the Apostle Parish, Clifton, who plans topics for the shows, unlike Father Corona. Some of Father Barrios’ shows have focused on the meaning of the Apostles’ Creed and on the Holy Trinity, which he delivered in both English and Spanish. He said that he does field questions and share videos of the show on his Facebook page at “Julio Barrios.”

“It [the Facebook Live broadcast] shows that priests are approachable. We joke, laugh and drink a cup of coffee, when answering a question — just like everyone else,” said the Cuban-born Father Barrios, who noted that he enjoys interaction with the audience. “We should never be afraid to answer people’s questions [about the Catholic faith].”