Meet Jared Holbrook: The Man Behind the Camera
In March, when COVID-19 pandemic closed churches around the country, St. Francis Solanus faced an unprecedented challenge — how could we keep the faithful connected to our parish and the Mass during a time of quarantine? At the same time, parishioner Jared Holbrook, a photographer and musician by trade, was suddenly without his usual “gigs.” As it turned out, God had a plan for both the parish and Jared all along.
“Because I’m a photographer and musician, I lost my livelihood immediately,” Jared says. “My weddings, which are how I pay my bills, all started canceling. I didn’t have anything to do, but I had all the equipment to record really good audio and streaming, so I started streaming live music shows from my basement. Soon, people started sending me notes and cards and emails and even money. So when they decided no one could be at church, I went to Fr. Bob and told him if the Internet was good enough, I could livestream the Masses.”
Soon, the livestream of Mass became a daily occurrence at St. Francis Solanus. Masses were scheduled for 3 p.m. to allow Jared to finish any other jobs he had for the day before coming to the church. Five people were present at each Mass — Fr. Don Blaeser and Fr. Bob Barko, Jared Holbrook, and his parents, Parish Business Manager Sue Holbrook and Director of Religious Education Mike Holbrook. Mike was the lector and server at the Masses, while Jared often took on the dual roles of providing music while managing the livestream equipment.
By streaming the Masses celebrated by our priests in our own beautiful church structure, St. Francis Solanus was able to serve parishioners’ spiritual needs in a unique way.
“Part of my reasoning for streaming Mass was because — unlike watching, say, a papal Mass — this was a time of very specific suffering for people, and I thought they needed specific words and guidance from the priests that they trusted,” Jared says. “It was one thing the lockdown couldn’t take away from us.”
With his specialized equipment and experience, Jared is able to produce a high-quality livestream that attracts thousands of viewers both from within our parish community and across the country. For example, one woman in Arizona left a comment on a livestream video explaining that she had been listening to Mass on the radio before finding the beautiful live Masses from St. Francis Solanus online. Locally, some parishioners who have been homebound for years have been grateful to “revisit” their beloved home church.
As for Jared, he is thankful for this job and the many blessings it brings, the greatest of which was the opportunity to strengthen his friendships with Fr. Don and Fr. Bob.
“It was just cool because I got to know them so much better,” he says. “After Mass, we would all have lunch in the priests’ dining room and just talk, and if they wanted to have dinner or see some friends, it had to be us. So we’d play cards or watch sports together. I think what’s way more important to our faith than remembering the prayers or being sticklers about the dogmatic things are the personal relationships with each other, and especially our priests. I wish more people would realize priests are human and sometimes they want to clock out, just have their shoes off, wear T-shirts and jeans, watch sports, and talk about funny things.”
Through months of livestreaming Mass to an empty church, Jared was deeply impressed by the spiritual devotion of Fr. Don and Fr. Bob, who never tired of celebrating the liturgy in front of a lone computer screen. For them, Jared noticed, each Mass was just as important and special as the first.
Jared also has a new appreciation for the need for lay people to participate actively in parish life.
“My faith was pretty strong anyway, but to be with priests and have them ask your counsel and your opinion on how the Mass looks, I realized we have to help them run the Catholic Church,” Jared says. “We can’t just sit back. I become a better Catholic by getting to know the people who bring us the faith. These guys literally give their whole existence to serve us, and the least we can do is acknowledge that this is difficult on some level. We can give them our support, and, in turn, they give us some of their holiness.”
Having witnessed the many benefits of our livestream Masses for our parishioners and Catholics beyond our local community, new Pastor Fr. Arisman and Jared have discussed the possibility of continuing this service indefinitely. As for Jared, he wouldn’t trade the time he has spent livestreaming the Masses for anything in the world.
“It has been a great experience,” he says. “I would do it again in a heartbeat.”
“Part of my reasoning for streaming Mass was because — unlike watching, say, a papal Mass — this was a time of very specific suffering for people, and I thought they needed specific words and guidance from the priests that they trusted. It was one thing the lockdown couldn’t take away from us.” — Jared Holbrook