The Digital Parish – Aidan Chester

21 Apr 2020

Aidan Chester, Director of Veritas: 

1. How are you coping day to day with lockdown/social distancing?

Not too bad- the kids are still alive which is a positive! Working from home is all about a strict daily routine for me. I’m up early and working as soon the coffee is made. I work for the morning and then the family start getting up and looking for breakfast around midday – so I take a break around then, head to the local supermarket for what we need for the day and then back in the office and work until about 5.00pm. Then its out for a walk every evening, make dinner and watch the news (only once a day). I am reading a lot more and working on a couple of other projects also. Bed early. Rinse and Repeat.

2. What do you miss most?

I miss the great people of Veritas and this is something for everyone to reflect on when this is all over – being thankful for what we had together! 20-30 people would be in my office every day updating me and discussing projects we are working on. That’s the piece I miss the most – the personal contact. Working from home is just as intense as you’re still meeting by phone, Zoom and email but talking with people face to face is so much more personal and much more interactive.

3. How are you reaching out online? Will you continue this post-Covid 19?

The main lesson I have learnt from others is good communication (think of our Taoiseach and his communications with the nation). So, I have kept in touch with lots of staff members regularly, even just checking in to see how they are doing – an email, a text, a WhatsApp, a call. But it’s not all about technology! Our youngest, William is writing An Post postcards every day to people we think of and then we post the cards in the evening.

I also have a network of people I am working with or have worked with over the years across the globe (the US, Asia and Europe). I am checking in with them too to see how the Pandemic is affecting their country – just checking in with them and seeing how they are doing helps give me a sense of perspective. And then (I need to do better apparently!) checking in with my parents (one of whom lives in Wales) who are both in their 70’s (my mother says early 70’s) and in total lockdown. My 93 year old grandmother seems to be doing better than anyone – she is nonplussed by it all!

As Ireland’s leading religious publisher and retailer we have focused on sharing as much content as we can on all our social media channels and our website. The reaction has been amazing and everyone is playing their part. Thousands of teachers and parents are accessing our Grow in Love and Soul Seekers resources online from home which we have given out free. In the lead up to Easter hundreds of customers downloaded our free Holy Week e-books. With stores looking like they will be closed for some weeks yet, our website is very busy with orders coming in from around the country. We have had a great response to some of the special offers we have been running including selling 3,000 copies of the Glenstal Missal in one morning!

Our own authors have shared new resources they have been working on, poems and reflections all about their experience with the circumstances we currently face.

And its not just our own Veritas content that’s getting a great reaction. This week we shared a unique interview with Pope Francis that he gave to The Tablet in the UK in which he talks about Covid-19 and how he’s coping. The interview was a great insight and a lot of people have downloaded it already!

Customers are telling us on the phone and via email that a lot of people are tuning into all of the religious programming that’s available at the moment including Daily Mass onTV, watching Pope Francis on Easter Sunday, and even Andrea Bocelli outside the cathedral in Milan on YouTube!

So when you see and hear all of this it gives us hope that when restrictions are finally eased there will be a continued positive “surge” for the type of “spiritually fulfilling” products and books that you will find at Veritas.

4. What’s the first thing you will do after lockdown/social distancing is eased?

It was really a tough day when I had to put in place a number of very severe measures in Veritas in response to the Covid-19 crisis. A lot of our brilliant creative and hardworking people are now at home waiting for things to improve. I have promised them that when this is all over we will gather and celebrate how we got through this difficult time together – and I mean it!

5. What’s your message to those in need of hope and encouragement at this time?

Its hard, there’s no point in saying it isn’t. But it will pass, there’s no question about that. Then we have to think about how we re-boot. Over the last couple of weeks I have had lots of emails from business contacts in China all saying they are back in work, that things have improved so quickly once the virus has been overcome. It was a long 12 weeks but they say we can hope things will improve and improve quickly. Hopefully they are right but perhaps this is an opportunity for us all to reflect on what was working up to Covid-19 and what wasn’t working and make some changes when things ease. They don’t have to be major changes – just small things. When we are out walking people are saying hello to each other – that wasn’t always the way, was it?

We will prevail!