Fr. Jerin Louis, with the help of a creative team and the Diocese of Thunder Bay, began Thunder Bay Street Gospel in 2016. Photo courtesy Fr. Jerin Louis

Street Gospel videos engage wide audience

By  Sarah Wentzell, Youth Speak News
  • February 19, 2020

Reflecting on each week’s Gospel is more than a private experience for Catholic youth in Northern Ontario. It is a public witness. 

Every week for the past four years, the Thunder Bay Street Gospel has produced YouTube videos featuring Catholics from all walks of life sharing their personal reflections on Sunday Gospel readings. For participant Roby Jose, this was an uncharted path to explore. 

“It was a very new experience for me. … I never until then thought of reading the Gospel ahead of Mass and reflecting upon it before I went to Mass. Now I try to do it more often. … It got me thinking and reflecting more on the Word of God.” 

Jose said he received positive reactions when he shared his episode on Facebook, and many people were impressed by the quality of the videos.

“I had a lot of my friends and family comment about it, saying good things. They also were fascinated by the idea of weekly reflections.”

The inspiration for the Thunder Bay Street Gospel came to life very unexpectedly when Fr. Jerin Louis was speaking with youth co-ordinator Rosemarie Needham. 

Needham expressed her wish to engage more youth in her ministry and Louis was struck with the idea to start weekly Gospel reflection videos. The momentum kept building, and two days later the first episode was filmed.

With an impressive library of more than 200 videos, the Street Gospel team has interviewed people of all ages, including Grade 1 students, college students and a 90-year-old great-grandmother. With over a thousand views on some of their episodes, the Street Gospel has featured Catholics from towns across Northern Ontario, including Fort Frances, Terrace Bay, Schreiber and Manitouwadge. 

Daniela Carlino, a 26-year-old graduate of film production and a member of the creative team, said she has seen incredible growth since the project began.

“With the support of the diocese, we were able to branch out, create more videos and reach more people. Fr. Jerin has taken the project even further, as he’s able to interview people from across the region. It’s not just a youth initiative anymore; people of all ages and backgrounds are giving their Gospel reflections.”

Carlino said the experience has also helped her grow personally. 

“Helping to create the Street Gospel series has been an ongoing learning experience. It’s always interesting to hear what your priest has to say about a particular Gospel reading, but hearing a reflection from everyday people puts a new perspective to the Gospel readings.”

Carlino said the response to the Street Gospel has been very encouraging.

“The Street Gospel has had a very positive response with its viewers … it’s awesome to see people get excited about it.”

Although originally expecting more difficulty finding volunteers, Carlino said many Catholics have been eager to get involved. 

For Louis, this ministry has blossomed into a passionate commitment. “It’s hard work, but I love it,” Louis said.

Through his work, Louis has seen the Street Gospel touch the lives of many around him, whether bringing people back to regular Mass attendance or increasing their religious zeal. Louis said the reflections act as a testimony to friends and family and allow people to relate the Word of God to their own situations.

 “It’s a personal retreat. They are going through that process. … They see that they can relate it to their lives,” Louis said.

(Wentzell, 16, is a Grade 11 student in Seton Home Study School in Thunder Bay, Ont.)

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