By Jessica Easthope
Lights, camera, Amen!
At St. Andrew Avellino Church nothing’s impossible with faith and fast internet, that’s why the Flushing, Queens parish won an Honorable Mention Parish Excellence Award for its live mass broadcast.
What started out as an iPad on a stand became a high-tech operation. The church got a new HD camera from DeSales Media, the communication and technology arm of the Diocese of Brooklyn that operates NetTV. It allowed the Word of God to be sent into the homes of parishioners at lightning speed.
“We were fortunate enough, with the help of DeSales Media to get a wonderful camera that has been just extraordinary,” said Father Joseph Holcomb, the pastor of St. Andrew Avellino.
But installing cameras for live streaming mass didn’t start because of the pandemic. Last fall DeSales Media Group tested the cameras out in two parishes. Now 90 parishes across the Diocese of Brooklyn are fully equipped.
“I can’t say that when we started doing this program last fall that we ever envisioned this kind of rollout and effort and it’s a really great feeling and gives me a sense of purpose when I go to work every day,” said Cristian Ortiz, the Account Development Manager for DeSales Media.
Not only do the cameras allow people at home in Brooklyn and Queens to watch mass at their local parish, the broadcasts reach across the world.
“We’ve reached continents St. Clare’s in Queens has reached as far as South Africa, St Mel’s, St. Kevin’s they’ve reached Argentina, Italy, it’s really amazing and I think this has been a great tool not only during COVID-19 but for evangelization as well,” Ortiz said.
At St. Andrew Avellino the live masses have been viewed in Peru, Colombia and the Philippines.
Saying Mass to an empty church wasn’t easy, but Father Holcomb quickly learned how much of an impact the new technology could make.
“Once we realized more and more people were watching the broadcast it became a little bit easier to know that we were delivering something in the midst of this very, very difficult time,” Father Holcomb said.
Lynn Scott has been a parishioner at St. Andrew Avellino for 13 years and she picked up where DeSales left off, helping to coordinate every aspect of the broadcast, she knew just how much it was needed.
“I was scared and just being able to watch and listen to God’s word, it gave comfort to me,” Lynn said.
And as the COVID-19 numbers climbed, so did the number of views. During the height of the pandemic Sunday mass was being streamed by 1,500 people, prompting the church to keep its livestream up indefinitely.
Starting December 1, DeSales will be rolling out even more cameras. The media company is expecting to have 60 more parishes in the Diocese of Brooklyn set up for live streaming by the end of next year.