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Internet stream brings parish Masses to seniors, others

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February 14, 2011

By David Eck

ARCHDIOCESE — Seniors and others at Our Lady of the Visitation Parish in Mack who can’t make it to Mass because of illness or mobility issues will soon be able to view parish liturgies via the internet.

The parish is installing a video system that will allow live internet streaming of Masses and other events held in the church. Also, the streaming will archived and visitors will be able to access them from the parish website.

“It’s a huge evangelization tool to spread the Gospel,” said Deacon Mike Erb, who is assigned to Our Lady of the Visitation. “It’s a new way of meeting people where they are.”
The technology enables parishioners who are traveling or shutin to remain linked to their home parish. They will see their priest, their familiar church, understand the music, and may even recognize their friends on the stream. The video will also enable the parish to reach out the Catholics who are not active in the faith and bring them to the faith community, Deacon Erb said.

The equipment can be set to stream specific events like funerals, workshops or even choir practices. People who can’t attend the events will be able to catch up by viewing the archived stream at their leisure. The streams will also enable extended family members or relatives out of town to view a child’s first Communion or confirmation Mass.
Deacon Erb said the streaming adds to the whole worship experience.

The stream is a good alternative for parishioners who can’t physically attend Mass for legitimate reasons. Parishioners may also find it more appealing than watching a Mass on television because of the personal connection.

“I think it is a good concept. It doesn’t replace church, but it’s close to it,” said Joe Hurr, the business manager at Precious Blood Church in Dayton, who heard a presentation on the system. “This is your priest and your parish.”

Brian Duerring, formerly the director of news operations for a Cincinnati television station, is marketing the concept to parishes throughout the archdiocese. The service costs $250-400 per month, depending on how many Masses are held.

“It’s been extremely welcomed by all the parishes,” Duerring said. “All of them have expressed an interest in obtaining the service at some point.”

Father Thomas Dennemann, pastor of St. Ann Parish in Groesbeck, is interested in using the service for Masses as well as for general parish communication. Video messages, news updates and other events could be streamed and archived.

“Anything we need to talk to people about, we could use that tool,” Father Dennemann said. “I would think there are many, many possibilities that I want to explore. I think this is an idea that’s time has come. I think it’s a great opportunity to reach out to people.”

In addition to keeping homebound seniors connected to their parish, the technology would enable young parishioners who are away serving in the military or away at college to view Masses from home.

“This makes it your own parish Mass,” Father Dennemann said. “There is still that parish identity that people have.”

The idea for the streaming was developed last year when Father Robert Waller, pastor of St. Andrew Parish in Milford, celebrated the wedding of Duerring and his wife, Laura.
Father Waller, who learned the couple had been in commercial broadcasting and own a webcasting business, asked them about using the technology so a parishioner in a nursing home could see Masses from St. Andrew.

The system has been in use at St. Andrew since last fall and has been well received by parishioners, said Deacon Timothy Schutte, who is assigned to St. Andrew. Among the unexpected benefits is that parishioners continue to access archived homilies that have touched them so they can hear the message again.

“The benefits are yet to be totally realized,” Deacon Schutte said. “The positives are just unfolding before us. We didn’t understand the depth of what this can do for the community.”

David Eck can be reached at [email protected].

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