Priest connects with young people through TikTok dancing videos

An Indiana priest has become a TikTok sensation as he brightens people’s days by spreading the joy of dancing. He uses the popular social media platform to reach people not only in his community but around the world.

Priest Jose Emmanuel Arroyo-Acevedo has been posting daily videos that feature dancing, flipping and even stilt walking (a skill he learned in high school, which led him to perform on the Miss Universe stage). All are inspired by his love for God and his community. His most-watched video currently has more than 220,000 views, and more people are seeing it every day.

“Padre Jose” has been an ordained priest for almost a year now. He serves at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church and School in Goshen, Ind., assisting Father Royce Gregerson, in the position of parochial vicar.

Since daily, in-person interactions with the community and his students have stopped because of the coronavirus pandemic, he’s been posting daily videos of mass in both Spanish and English. But Arroyo-Acevedo wanted to do something to engage with teens and younger youth, so he also learned how to “TikTok,” something he had never even heard of until he started doing it.

“I just want to unite our faith with the rest of our lives,” he says. “So faith and fun can go together.”

Arroyo-Acevedo, who uses the handle @padrejoseemmanuel, does everything from the latest TikTok trends and dances to making up his own videos. He believes in the importance of connecting with young people.

“They are our present and our future,” Arroyo-Acevedo says. “They cannot be ignored and they are currently at home. When you have free time, you can be very creative. If we connect with them, we can give hope in this time and let them know that we're here for them.”

As Arroyo-Acevedo continues to connect the community, focusing on the younger generation, he wants people to take something from his videos: “I want to help them connect their lives and see their lives in the light of the greater picture. Sorrow doesn't have the last word, but joy does.”

Arroyo-Acevedo says he plans to continue making videos to share that message.

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