By ROB HERBST
The Catholic Week
BREWTON — About a dozen people attended a recent 11 a.m. Tuesday Mass at St. Maurice Parish in Brewton, but countless more still took part.
The celebration was later broadcast on the “Mass for Shut-ins” program, which is aired every Sunday on TV stations throughout the Archdiocese of Mobile. Funded by Catholic Social Services, the ministry allows homebound Catholics unable to physically attend Mass to remain connected to their faith.
“They celebrate right along with us,” said St. Maurice Pastor Fr. Patrick Madden, a frequent celebrant on the broadcasts. “They go to Mass with us.
“One lady, who was very incapacitated, told me she watched and had some crackers and juice with her and took part.”
Of course, there are limitations to watching the Mass at home compared to being in a pew.
Time is also an issue as the airings are limited to a 30-minute time slot each week. But the ministry, which has been a mainstay in the archdiocese for years, helps fill a void for those longing to be at Mass.
Filming is done about every two weeks, with a few parishes and priests being regulars for the program — including Fr. Madden and St. Maurice Parish.
Mobile-based Volta Studios films and edits the Mass before it distributes the final product to stations within the archdiocese’s territories. It currently airs at 10:30 a.m. Sunday on UTV-44 in Mobile; Spectrum Cable channel 304 and WOW! Cable channel 6 in Dothan; and Spectrum Cable channel 180 in Montgomery.
Logistics necessitate that two Masses are filmed back-to-back, but those involved would like to keep it as fresh as possible. Fr. Madden said years ago that four Masses were filmed in one day. When filming took place, he was battling a cold which affected his voice.
For a month, loyal viewers oblivious that four Masses were filmed in one day were worried about Fr. Madden’s health.
“I got letters from people saying they were praying for me,” Fr. Madden fondly recalled.
While the exact number of viewers the Mass draws is unknown, Deacon William Graham, who serves at St. John the Baptist Parish in Grand Bay and acts as coordinator of the program, said he often hears from those who watch the Mass.
“We were filming at St. Patrick in Robertsdale and (the cantor) told me she watches the Mass every week because her mom watches it,” Deacon Graham said. “That happens quite a few times where somebody says ‘you do the homebound Mass.’ That makes you feel good that it’s a worthwhile project.”
Although the Mass is geared toward homebound Catholics, Deacon Graham speculated it might affect others.
“I wonder how many non-Catholics watch it,” Deacon Graham said. “You’ve just gotta believe it’s affecting somebody. My wife says ‘in time, you’ll find out.’ ”
By ROB HERBST