Catholics find community in Televised Mass
By Julie Filby
File photo by James Baca/DCR
Estimated at 20,000 parishioners, it’s one of the largest congregations in the Archdiocese of Denver—and one whose growth can’t be limited by square footage or the number of pews. It’s the TV Mass parish.
Every Sunday at 6:30 a.m., thousands of Catholics tune in to Colorado Public Television Channel 12 for the local Televised Mass, filmed at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver.
“The Televised Mass,” running since 1966, is Denver’s longest running local television program. Its viewing audience consists primarily of Catholics who are homebound and physically unable to attend Mass at their neighborhood parish.
“It’s a way for us to give back, especially to our elderly brothers and sisters in the faith who were very active and have given so much to the Church,” explained Karna Swanson, archdiocesan director of communications. “We’re very committed to it, and work hard to keep it going.”
The 30-minute liturgy is produced by the archdiocese’s Office of Communications in coordination with the Office of Liturgy and a pool of dedicated volunteers.
Last summer this special “parish” underwent its own type of remodel when audio-visual equipment in the cathedral was upgraded in anticipation of live broadcasting the installation Mass of Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila July 18.
A capital investment from the archdiocese allowed for purchase of high definition equipment including: two HD cameras, a switcher (allowing one camera to cut to another), robotic controls, program monitor, two preview monitors, wireless microphones, a DVD player with built-in hard drive for recording, and a new computer with editing software.
“The new equipment was a great investment … and it’s almost fully functional,” according to Jason Weindruch, a Regis University graduate and freelance producer who’s produced “The Televised Mass” for some 10 years. “We’re about 85 percent of the way hooked up … just a few loose ends to tie up.”
Since the initial installation last July, viewers should have noticed an improvement.
“There is an extreme difference in quality,” Weindruch said. “It’s like getting a new pair of eyes … it really looks great, and it will only get better.”
Weekly TV Mass
When: 6:30 a.m., every Sunday, 30 minutes
Special Easter TV Mass
When: 7 a.m., Easter Sunday, March 31, one hour
Celebrant: Father Sam Morehead
Watch: Colorado Public Television, Channel 12
Filmed at: Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Denver
The previous equipment had been in place 20-25 years, according to John Miller, associate director of the Office of Liturgy.
“It was a bit antiquated,” he said. “With the new equipment, it’s much more crisp and clear.”
The Office of Liturgy coordinates the area priests that celebrate the TV Mass including: Vincentian Father Larry Christensen, parochial vicar at Risen Christ in Denver; Father James E. Fox, pastor of Good Shepherd in Denver; Father Steven Voss, pastor of St. Joseph in Fort Collins; Father Sam Morehead, parochial vicar of St .John the Evangelist in Loveland; Jesuit Father Kevin Dyer, chaplain at Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora; and Msgr. Jorge De los Santos, vicar for Hispanic Ministry who serves at several parishes.
In addition, there are 15 volunteer lectors from a variety of parishes, as well as five cantors, a sacristan, and occasionally there are volunteer “people in the pews.” The ministry is close to the heart of those volunteers, as well as Miller.
“It’s important because every Sunday (the homebound) have a sense of ‘being there,’” he said, “Of being with a parish community to help support them and pray for them.
“It’s for them, and their needs and prayers,” he said, while at the same time, in return, they are praying at home and offering up their suffering and sacrifices.
“Everyone’s praying for each other.”
It can also be an avenue to help those going out to Mass prepare for the liturgy.
“Some viewers that aren’t homebound watch it to prepare for another Mass,” Miller said. “Then they’ve already heard the readings, and can get two different perspectives in two different homilies.”
“The Televised Mass” is funded by a grant from The Catholic Foundation of Northern Colorado, as well as through donations from viewers.
“Our vision at The Catholic Foundation is to inspire and facilitate financial planning and giving that promotes the Gospel, transforms lives and glorifies God,” said Deacon Steve Stemper, president and CEO of the foundation. “The Mass is certainly key to worshipping him fully.”
Recognizing the hardship of those who are sick, elderly, or can’t attend Mass for whatever reason, he continued, combined with their yearning to “keep holy the Sabbath” makes delivering the Mass a particularly effective work of mercy.
“Hopefully, it facilitates the viewers’ prayer time in a profound way as they are able to spiritually unite their desire to receive Jesus in the Eucharist with their personal sacrifice of being homebound and unable to physically do so,” he said. “The foundation sees this ministry as an effective way to bring Christ to his people, and we are proud to have a small role in making this happen.”
“The Televised Mass” airs 6:30 a.m. every Sunday on Colorado Public Television Channel 12. On Easter Sunday, March 31, there will be special hour-long liturgy, beginning at 7 a.m. For more information, visit www.archden.org/tvmass, call 303-715-3230 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Viewers Grateful for TV Mass
“The Televised Mass is a great source of comfort and inspiration. The homilies were very much appreciated. The Mass provided a spiritual dimension that would otherwise have been lacking in my life.”
“Now almost 92 years of age, I am a lifelong Catholic. The services provided each Sunday by you and the volunteers have been an integral part of my spiritual and religious life.”
“We set up a TV in the activity room, bring the residents together, show the Mass to them and distribute Communion. The residents appreciate the gathering and attending Mass together. … It is an important connection to those who cannot attend regular Sunday Mass in church.”