SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — With only a skeleton staff and bare-bones set-up, a San Jose church has found an unexpected international audience during the coronavirus outbreak, live-streaming its daily mass on Facebook and Instagram.

“Doing a daily mass with a very small group of the most essential people is a way to nourish our parishioners — not just in the area we’re in but around the world,” said Fr. Antonio Silveira, the pastor at Five Wounds Portuguese National Parish on the outskirts of downtown San Jose.

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The genesis of the idea was strikingly simple. If parishioners were barred from attending church as part of the emergency measures to slow the spread of the virus, why not use social media to bring the comfort of daily mass to them directly?

“I was really heartbroken when I thought I wasn’t going to be able to come to mass,” said Lisa Berry who manages the church’s and Pastor Silveira’s social media accounts.

Berry said the only problem was she didn’t know how to broadcast the mass online and had virtually no camera and video equipment to speak of. Her initial, do-it-yourself set-up was little more than a cell phone duct taped to a ladder which functioned as a makeshift tripod.

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But despite the simplicity of the set-up, the message of faith, charity and comfort during challenging times resonated. It was shared and spread via social media to far-flung corners of the globe — Portugal to Brazil, Canada to Nigeria, India to Bangladesh just to name a few.

“We’ve been streaming it and it’s been amazing. I sit everyday and I see the messages coming in and I feel this sense of community,” said Berry.

The virus has frayed the fabric of people’s everyday lives — how they work, play and pray. Father Silveira and his team started out to provide a service to their parish and ended up knitting together a community of faith around the world.

“There is definitely a sense of community especially during this difficult time — more so than ever. It’s when we needed it most,” said parishioner Michelle Vargas.

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