What are they?
As opposed to Physical Cenacles that meet in one location, Virtual Cenacles use some kind of conferencing technology so people in multiple locations, typically their homes, can meet together in a cenacle.
Virtual Cenacles have been indispensable during the COVID-19 pandemic to maintain formation and communal prayer even during lockdown. However, they have shown their value beyond COVID-19 as a way to allow people scattered and isolated by distance, health, or dangerous travel environments to still participate in the communal life and formation of the movement.
Jitsi Meet is our official virtual cenacle platform but you are free to use whatever works for your cenacle. Many are using Zoom or FreeConferenceCall.com. We have download links to our User Guide and Reference Guide for Jitsi at the bottom of this article.
Virtual Cenacle Etiquette
There are important differences between sitting in the same room and using conferencing products. There are even important differences between using conferencing products and being on a regular, one-on-one phone call. Below are some important rules of etiquette:
Mute Your Sound When Not Speaking
As a general rule, because there may be many callers on the line, each one adds their own background noise. All that background noise adds up and makes it hard for others to hear. They may also hear other sounds like your breathing, burping, conversations with others, unexpected sounds like someone shouting for you or a loud truck outside. Thus, for the sake of others on the call, please keep your microphone/sound muted when you are not speaking. To mute and unmute from a computer or mobile device, click the microphone icon on the bottom of your screen. To mute and unmute from a regular phone, press *6.
There are times when you will want to remain unmuted. For example, if there are only a few callers on the line or if you are engaged in an active conversation. If this is the case, feel free to leave your sound unmuted.
NEVER Put the Call on Hold
This can be awful for everyone on the line. If your phone makes noise, beeps, plays hold music, everyone will hear it and it may be impossible for the conference to continue as long as you have the call on hold.
Call from a Quiet Environment
Similar to the last two points of etiquette, for the sake of others, please try to call from a quiet location. Loud noise outside a window, such as landscaping or construction, may make it hard for others to hear on the call.
Use a Headset or Ear Buds, or Hold the Phone to Your Ear
Echo can be a big problem on conference calls. You may not hear it but others will. Echo happens when the sound of someone speaking comes out of your speakers and then goes back into your microphone. Now the other person hears themselves but delayed and so does everyone else. If the echo is bad enough, it can be a mirror in a mirror effect and echo continuously making it impossible to continue the call. To prevent this echo problem, please observe the following:
- Please do not use the speaker on your cell phone. Not only will it pick up more background noise but it will produce the echo problem. Hold the phone to your ear.
- If you are using a cell phone or tablet, please use your ear buds or blue tooth device like you were making a hands-free call.
- If you are using a computer, please use a headset unless your microphone and speakers are such that the sound from the speakers cannot enter back into your microphone. If you do not have a headset but still want to use your computer so you can see and be seen and take advantage of the other functions of Jitsi Meet, you can use a hybrid approach. Connect with your computer, mute your microphone and turn off your speakers. Then dial into the same conference with your phone (using ear buds or holding it to your ear) to hear the sound and speak.
Be Patient with Each Other
This latency problem is bad enough when we are talking randomly such as when greeting each other, fellowshipping, or sharing and discussing the Diary during the cenacle. But, it can make praying together extremely difficult such as when we pray the Rosary. It is hard enough to stay together when we are in the same room! With the latency of a conference call, it is impossible.
Thus, we strongly recommend when praying the Rosary, or similar prayers, that everyone stays muted (or hold your hand over the microphone if you cannot mute your phone) except for having one leader OR a leader and a responder. The leader and responder should not speak at the same time, e.g., during the “Oh my Jesus” Fatima prayer, the responder should pray silently or mute their sound.
In our cenacles, we usually divide the decades between several people (e.g., A, B, C, & D). Our practice is to have “A” lead the 1st decade with “B” responding, then “B” would lead the 2nd decade and “A” would respond. In the 3rd decade, “C” would lead with “D” responding, then in the 4th decade, “D” would lead and “C” would respond. In the 5th decade, “B” would lead with “A” responding. During each decade, everyone would be muted except for the leader and responder of that decade.
Here are our guides for Jitsi Meet: