By Cian Molloy - 16 March, 2020
Church Services TV is experiencing an unprecedented increase in demand from parishes and lay Catholics around the world for its internet-based ‘Parish TV’ service.
“We have been inundated with calls from parishes since Thursday,” said the company’s founder and director Tony Bolger, who is also CEO of Church Support Group, owners of CatholicIreland.Net. “It really has been quite something.“
Normally, some two million people visit www.churchservices.tv (CSTV) every month to view either regular parish services, such as Sunday Masses, or to be virtually present at baptism, confirmation, wedding and funeral ceremonies.
But in recent days, many more people are now using their PCs, tablets and smartphones to log in to ‘Parish TV’, the CSTV internet-based service that mimics traditional TV. This is because dioceses across the country have suspended the public celebration of Mass to help curb the spread of the infectious Covid-19 disease.
CSTV’s existing customers mainly use fixed cameras, expertly and discreetly fitted by CSTV technicians, to broadcast ceremonies, but pre-installed equipment isn’t an absolute necessity to set up Parish TV for the duration of the coronavirus lock-down.
“One of our services that has become very popular this weekend is our ability to stream live in a secure environment from mobile devices,” said Mr Bolger. “This means live footage can be easily uploaded onto the internet using smartphones, tablets or hand-held cameras.”
CSTV is yet to fully analyse yesterday’s viewing figures to see how many people used the website – while there are many parishes using the system for the first time, some existing customers were cancelling Masses completely. For example, in parishes where three Sunday Masses might normally be celebrated, priests were con-celebrating only one Mass behind closed doors. However, early reports suggest that the total audience for Parish TV more than trebled this weekend.
In ‘normal conditions’, the CSTV website would usually have about two million visitors a month, said Mr Bolger. “Visitors tune in for roughly 750,000 hours monthly. Approximately 500,000 of these are ‘online repeat parishioners’.”
So far, people in 205 different countries have used CSTV to view church services.
Ceremonies can be automatically recorded using the CSTV system, which notched up more than 22,500 different recordings – mostly funerals – in 2019.
Recordings are available to be viewed for a limited time on parish websites, which means, for example, that overseas mourners can view a loved one’s funeral at a time that suits their time zone, wherever in the world they may be.
“This video on-demand service is like the RTE Player or the BBC iPlayer,” said Mr Bolger.
Once installed, there is very little technical know-how required by local parish staff. “If you schedule a ceremony and request a recording, it is automated,” the CEO explained. “The recording will automatically appear on your parish website player without human intervention.”
At least that is one less headache during the current pandemic!
In a separate move, the Diocese of Clonfert and the Diocese of Elphin have jointly published a booklet online to help the faithful in this extraordinary time.
Entitled ‘Prayers at Home – When Gathering for Mass is Not Possible’, the booklet is designed to help people in their prayer life at a time when participating in a public liturgy is not possible.
Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin says a printed version of the booklet is due to be available shortly, but in the meantime a PDF file can be downloaded here and printed out at home – if you have a home printer.
Calling on people to consider printing off some copies to pass on to those who may not have internet access, or home printers, Bishop Doran said: “While you can pray this at any time, a good time to do so would be at the time Mass is normally celebrated in your local parish.
“We continue to keep each other in prayer during this time. Please remember to take care of yourself, your family and loved ones and follow the advice of the HSE.”