By Barb Arland-Fye
Last Monday morning while proofreading pages for that week’s issue of The Catholic Messenger on my laptop computer, I imagined the other five staffers doing the same thing in their homes. Quite a switch from our normal routine of proofreading printed pages in the office, as we did for years!
The COVID-19 pandemic required alterations in work habits, interactions and schedules, as it has for all of you. But God has blessed us with technology (and the experts to make it work), allowing us to work offsite and publish a print and e-edition delivered to you each week.
Coronavirus leaves all of us in the global village guessing about what happens next. Despite the uncertainty, our staff at The Catholic Messenger remains committed to educating, inspiring and motivating you each week with a fresh edition of our diocesan newspaper.
We are learning on the fly how to communicate in a world reshaped by social distancing, video and audio conferencing, self-quarantine, spiritual Communion, and liturgies online, unemployment, distance learning, elbow bumps and hand-washing etiquette. God has our attention and we need to respond in faith.
So, here’s how our staff is responding to the “new normal” that results from efforts to help mitigate the spread of the deadly coronavirus pandemic:
Anne Marie Amacher, assistant editor: “My ‘desk’ is the dining room table that I share with my seventh-grade son who is e-learning. My daughter is in the next room doing her high school senior-year classes. My stuff is scattered all over the house — directory, calendars, notebooks, laptop, cheat sheets with passwords, files, reading glasses (where are they?). The three of us at home fighting for internet speeds.”
“Lots of emails passed, some texts and video chats for news and staff meetings. Great to do the video chats to see everyone. It’s challenging, but we are here to spread the news and features with our readers.”
“We will survive and look forward to more ‘normal’ times later this spring: going back to Mass at my parish, going to a rescheduled first Communion for my niece, rescheduled prom and graduation for my daughter. It will come — when the time is right for everyone’s safety.”
Lindsay Steele, diocesan reporter: “The St. Vincent Center was more than just a workplace to me. It was a second family. Not being able to be with the priests and staff at the St. Vincent Center right now is hard. I can bring a lot of my work home, and I’ve been busier than ever as I update our website and Facebook pages with resources and breaking news. But, the people I work with? I can’t bring THEM home. More, now that ever, I appreciate the interactions we still do have. I look forward to video conferences with Messenger staff, and I’ve found ways to connect with other people in the building, as well. I look forward to the day when I can be with my second family in person again.
Anthony Forlini, diocesan and Messenger webmaster/videographer: “The pandemic does have an effect on me as a web and technology person. Although some parts of my job don’t require personal contact, others do. It is a harder to communicate sometimes but I am adjusting by using more phone, text, email and teleconferencing to communicate. Being away from the office opens the doors for some backburner projects. Isolation is a challenge for everyone.”
Jill Henderson, circulation/business office coordinator: “Thanks to the purchase of laptops, I’ve been able to adapt to working from home quite well. I’m able to access our subscriber database remotely to keep our subscription services up to date to ensure our parishioners are receiving their newspapers, especially at this unprecedented time. Throughout the day, I remotely check the Messenger voicemail line and email account. There are some tasks I just can’t do at home such as checking the mail and printing out invoices and checks so a short visit to the office a few times a week is necessary. There are some tasks that I’ve had to adapt but technology has been wonderful to streamline them as best as possible.”
Phil Hart, advertising representative: “Businesses are worried about the very basics. My oldest daughter is a nurse at a hospital in the Chicago area. She is in an essential profession so she is working full-time. She has no day care because of the shutdown in Illinois. My wife and I are now babysitting our daughter’s 3-year-old and 8-month-old until the end of this week and maybe the weeks after that. Bottom line, we are full-time parents again! I get my Messenger work done between dishes, diapers and feedings.”
(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye@firstname.lastname@example.org)