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Prayercasts reach students, alums

John-Paul Witt | Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Campus Ministry has taken prayer at Notre Dame into the 21st century with the launch of the ND Prayercast – a Web site where listeners can hear prayers, homilies and music.

The project, created by Folk Choir Director Steven Warner, uses streaming media technology to allow Internet users to listen to a selection of music, Gospel reading and prayer with a Notre Dame flavor.

The Prayercast features musicians from the Folk Choir and homilists like Zahm rector Father Dan Parrish, St. Edward’s rector Father Ralph Haag and Campus Ministry director Father Richard Warner.

“All the music is re-recorded for the Prayercast,” Steven Warner said. “It’s designed to give the feeling that you’re alone in a room with a few musicians. It’s a very personal feeling, more intimate than a track from a CD.”

The idea came to Warner in November as a way to reach out to the increasingly “tech-savvy” body of Notre Dame students and alumni.

“The Church meets people where they are – people working 60 to 80 hours a week in a business or between classes and tests,” Steven Warner said. “They need time to pray.”

Warner said he is especially concerned with the struggles alumni face in the working world.

“When people leave here, there’s a spiritual void,” he said. “We’re trying to fill it.”

The use of this type of technology is new at Notre Dame, Steven Warner said. He credited the Office of Information Technologies (OIT) – and lots of hard work – with helping him turn prayer into something downloadable.

“[Director of Campus Ministry] Father Warner said to get it up and running, so we spent months working with [Information Technology Manager] Vincent Melody at OIT and studying podcast technology,” Steven Warner said.

The Prayercast will soon be available through iTunes and will be downloadable to iPods – something the developers had always intended, said Campus Ministry intern Josh Stagni.

“[Our goal] is to have the Prayercast show up on search results when people search for Notre Dame on iTunes,” Stagni said.

The voiceovers in the Prayercast are provided by Emmeline Schoen, a 2003 Notre Dame graduate and current employee of Saint Mary’s Campus Ministry. She became involved with the Prayercast initiative in part because of her participation with the Folk Choir as an undergraduate.

“It’s a new technology, and I think that especially the student population is very attuned to it,” Schoen said. “It makes sense to use another avenue to approach and connect with people spiritually.”

Students like junior Elizabeth Stewart have generally been responsive to the Prayercast – there have been almost 3,000 hits on the Prayercast Web site since the first broadcast on Ash Wednesday.

“I think it is a great tool [to bring] traditional Catholicism into today’s culture,” Stewart said. “Integrating technology and faith holds so much potential for reaching a computer-driven society and making prayer available in a whole new context.”

Steven Warner said the response from Notre Dame students, alumni and friends has been strong.

“I’ve gotten e-mails from all over the country – Boston, Toledo, Chicago, D.C. – and a lot of students at Notre Dame,” Steven Warner said.

The Prayercast can be found at www.ndprayercast.org by clicking on “Weekly Prayercast.” It will play in Quicktime format, but the iTunes-playable version should be available soon.