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CatholicTV televises Basilica Masses

Emma Driscoll | Thursday, December 4, 2008

Once again, people do not have to be South Bend locals or students in order to celebrate Mass along with worshipers at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

CatholicTV, formerly called Boston Catholic Television, began airing the 10 a.m. Sunday Basilica Mass live last Sunday, according to Associate Director of Liturgy Fr. Peter Rocca.

CatholicTV has been providing Catholic television programming for 50 years and covers the East Coast, some Southern states and some of the Comcast eastern region, Rocca said.

“I know it will be a big hit, so to speak, especially in the New England area [because] there are a lot of Catholics there. I think as the word spreads it will become a pretty well known Mass to watch,” Rocca said.

Comcast, Verizon, Full Channel and RCN Cable providers in the New England area carry provide CatholicTV, Rocca said.

CatholicTV can be accessed nationally on the Sky Angel IPTV and online at www.CatholicTV.com, Rocca said.

“We’re very pleased that CatholicTV is doing this,” Rocca said.

The Hallmark Channel broadcasted the Basilica Mass for six years until earlier this year, Rocca said. Due to financial considerations and restructuring of Sunday morning programming, the Hallmark Channel did not air the Mass after June 29.

“Hallmark was doing some reformation, and also I think there were some financial considerations involved,” Rocca said.

Since advertisements were not shown during the Mass, Hallmark did not make money from televising the Masses and had to show them very early on Sunday mornings. Although the earlier showing made it “difficult for our viewers,” according to Rocca, viewers still made the effort to wake up and watch the Mass.

“When we went off the air in June, I got literally hundreds upon hundreds of notes from people,” Rocca said.

Rocca hopes that Hallmark will tape the Mass again because the channel reaches people across the country.

“We do hope to get a new contract with Hallmark beginning January 2010 because Hallmark has national coverage,” Rocca said.

A variety of Catholics and non-Catholics watch the televised Mass, particularly those who cannot attend Mass for a variety of reasons. Many viewers have sent letters to the Basilica about their experiences watching the Mass on television.

“We have people of all ages and all backgrounds … a lot of people who are elderly, who are confined to their homes because of sickness,” Rocca said.

Rocca said that he received a letter this week from an elderly couple that has watched the Mass from their home in Tucson, Ariz. because the husband has Parkinson’s disease.

The televised Mass helped an elderly man grieve over the death of his wife earlier this year, Rocca said. The couple watched the Mass together every weekend, and after his wife died in February, the man would hold her picture every Sunday while watching the Mass.

“It was so helpful and encouraging for him,” Rocca said.

Rocca recalled another letter from a lady in prison who wrote that the television airing was the only way that she could participate in Mass.

Rocca told The Observer he received a letter from a non-Catholic who stumbled on the televised Mass one day while channel surfing. After he started watching the Mass week after week, the man became Catholic, Rocca said.

The homilies, music and the Basilica itself attract viewers to watch the Mass on television, according to Rocca.

“Everyone comments on the quality of the preaching and of course the quality of the music,” Rocca said.

The University of Notre Dame Liturgical Choir, composed of 70 graduate and undergraduate students, provides music at the Mass. Dr. Gail Walton directs the choir and Dr. Andrew McShane is the assistant director

“And of course, the Basilica is such a beautiful setting. It’s hard not to be attracted to this Mass once you see it on television,” Rocca said.