Bonita Springs | On a recent morning at St. Leo the Great Parish everything for a normal Mass was in place: the priest, the cantor, the musician, the lectors, the Church was decorated in the appropriate seasonal colors. Seemingly out of place were bright lights, television cameras and extra microphones.
These additions are part of the technology and team that bring the Televised Mass for the Homebound to viewers. The team travels to Parishes throughout the Diocese of Venice and works to bring the full experience of the Mass into the homes of those who cannot attend in their own Parish.
This service of the Diocese Communications Department began not long after the Diocese was erected in 1984. Originally, the Mass was taped months in advance at the Santa Maria Chapel of Epiphany Cathedral School and priests from across the Diocese were invited to celebrate the Mass.
In 2009, the Televised Mass for the Homebound took to the road, thanks to the advent of modern technology. The TV Mass team goes to Parishes throughout the Diocese, offering a bright and intimate atmosphere, as well as exposing the viewers to more of the Diocese of Venice.
At the Mass taping at St. Leo the Great Parish, there were about 50 parishioners present to serve as the congregation for the two Masses taped there. They were thanked for their participation and told how much it means to the homebound. Several noted that it was a privilege to be a part of this outreach to the homebound. Tapings typically occur within just a few weeks of the actual broadcast date, making for timely homilies and appropriate seasonal and liturgical settings. Although the Mass time is limited to 30 minutes, each televised Mass includes prayer intentions for the homebound and sick of the Diocese.
Bishop Frank J. Dewane supports the TV Mass in many ways. First, the bishop celebrates the Christmas and Easter televised Masses each year and he also encourages the priests of the Diocese to volunteer their time.
The weekly TV Mass is specifically broadcast on local stations throughout the Diocese for persons who cannot attend the Mass at their local Parish because of either a short-term illness or for long-term health reasons. Additionally, the televised Mass is of great comfort for those who are incarcerated within the Diocese. The televised Mass is not intended to be a substitute for healthy persons who are able to attend Mass at their Parish.
While it is unclear how many people actually watch the weekly Mass within the Diocese, there are currently more than 1,500 names on the mailing list who receive a missal, so they can follow along with the broadcast. In addition to being viewed by individuals, area nursing homes, retirement communities and hospitals have notified the Diocese of Venice about groups viewing the Mass.
The Communications Department often receives notes, many including donations of support from viewers, explained Gail Ardy, TV Mass Producer.
“The notes people send reinforce the impact the TV Mass has on so many people,” Ardy said. “These are people who would otherwise lose their connection with the liturgical dimension of the Church. It is inspiring to know how much of an impact the TV Mass is having. The Diocese is blessed that we can provide a congregation so the homebound feel they are still actively included in the Church.”
Some notes include personal stories of illness, sadness or hardship, and all express a deep appreciation for the outreach. These notes often add a personal touch that reflects the importance of the Mass for each letter writer.
Selected quotes from recent notes include:
“My heartfelt blessing to be able to hear the Mass while home sick.”
“The beautiful Mass every Sunday — truly reflective of the love of God.”
“Thank you for your wonderful work in having a TV Mass every Sunday for us who cannot get to Sunday Mass.”
“I am so thankful I can participate in the Mass every Sunday.”
One recent letter from a couple on Longboat Key reflected the thoughts of many others. “Thank you for the TV Mass. We are in our 90s and miss going to Mass on Sunday, however the TV Mass fills in the gap.”
Others note how the Mass is a comfort for their homebound/ill loved ones who can no longer go to the Mass on the weekend. “I am able to tape it and coordinate my bringing home the Eucharist, so he receives at the same time as shown during the Mass. It is a blessing for which we are grateful.”
Another gentleman from Sarasota who is grateful for the televised Mass said: “I am trying to find the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ again, and your TV Mass is helping me to find Our Lord again!”
In addition to producing the TV Mass, Ardy maintains the missal mailing list and responds to appeals for assistance, such as connecting a viewer with a local extraordinary minister of holy Communion for the homebound.
The Mass is broadcast in Charlotte, Hardee, Highlands, DeSoto, Manatee and Sarasota counties at 9:30 a.m. on the CW Network (check your local listings for channel information); and in Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Lee, Glades and Hendry counties at 10:30 a.m. on WFTX-TV (FOX-4 in Cape Coral). Support for the Televised Mass for the Homebound comes from direct donations and from the annual Catholic Faith Appeal.
If you know of a homebound person who would like to receive a missal to follow along with the TV Mass, please call 941-484-9543 and ask about the TV Mass or write to: TV Mass, Diocese of Venice, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285.
Check your local listings for channel information. Leaflet missals are available by contacting Gail Ardy at 941-486-4714, or firstname.lastname@example.org.