Among those who played an exceptional role in the way the church responded to the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, is the Very Rev. Fr Julius Olaitan, Dean of Lagos Island and Parish Priest Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church, Victoria Island, Lagos. Now to his pastoral and administrative duties as a Parish Priest and Dean of Lagos Island Deanery Despite his heavy work schedule occasioned by his dual offices, numerous Catholics are offered audio Masses day after day that no doubt puts them in the right spiritual frame of mind.
His homilies are inspiring and capable of instigating self-examination for amends. Hence, the absence of such ministration would have created a huge gap in the liturgical duties of the Church. Today in Nigeria, he is recognised as the pioneer of the revolutionary Whatsapp-based Mass that is delivered daily to the mobile devices of Catholic faithful across the country and beyond. For over five months, during the time places of worship were ordered closed and Catholics deprived of Morning Holy Masses, his audio Mass, dubbed “Audiocast” delivered daily at 4 a.m filled the void. With a large following, the Masses became one of the most downloaded and shared contents on any mobile app.
Till date the Masses are still on due to the inability of the lay faithful to go to Church on weekdays. On how he hit upon the idea, Fr Olaitan says “the inspiration comes from God.” He narrates: “I started sending out bulk messages in 2007 with a short reflection on the Sunday celebration and later started publishing my homilies on Facebook because some people asked for it. The feedback was good as several people found it useful for reflection outside of what is preached in Church during Mass. But in 2015 when I resumed at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Victoria Island, the Director of the Lagos Resource Centre, Mrs Bridget Itsueli wanted me to do some reflections for the Year of Mercy and had invited a TV house for the recording. Somehow, the cameraman failed to show up and I decided to do a personal audio recording which I sent to her. She was very excited about it and asked if we could continue for that period.” That was how what became known as “Audiocast” was born on December 8, 2015.
However, it became increasingly popular in the era of the pandemic, when its potential was suddenly magnified in the face of disruption to conventional Mass. When government announced the total lockdown, “I thought to myself that there are not too many channels by which people can participate at Mass and so, with those who live in the Church compound, I formed a group that can daily help with the recording of Mass to be shared,” recalls Father Olaitan. “I started sharing the daily reflections with those on my contact list and quickly they started sharing with their contacts.
” The rest is history. Millions of Catholics, in the Archdiocese of Lagos, other dioceses and countries, who do not have access to the Church found solace in the daily Audiocast Holy Masses, which accorded them experiences of the Holy sacrifice of Mass and relationship with God as well as the Church. The Reverend Father found the feedback amazingly overwhelming. “I receive calls and messages and it is amazing how a little effort has turned out to become a help to so many people, like a mustard seed that becomes such a formidable tree that the birds of the earth can find a place to nest,” he muses.
On the relative ease of producing the Audiocast, he says: “It would have been very expensive if I have to go to the studio to do this daily. But I started with just using my phone. The simple gadgets of every day put to the right use can become a great tool in the hands of anyone. Doing something good does not always have to be expensive. I have had to buy some other types of recorders to serve better.”