TV Mass ministry marks 50 years

Broadcast is most tenured local program, reaches 36,000 viewers

Roxanne King

It’s the longest running local television program. The “Televised Mass for the Homebound” has been a ministry of the Denver Archdiocese since 1966 and marked its 50th anniversary this year.

The 30-minute liturgy airs early Sunday mornings on Colorado Public Television (CPT12). It reaches 36,000 households throughout Colorado, eastern Nebraska and southern Wyoming. Its mission is to help the sick, elderly and disabled to pray with the rest of the Church despite the fact they can’t leave their homes.

“We bring the Church to them,” said Kelly Seeman, Communications Office operations manager who records most of the TV Masses.

Celebrated at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Denver, a team of 40 volunteers, including lectors, cantors and a handful of priests who rotate as celebrants, prerecord a liturgy in English (which airs at 7 a.m.) and one in Spanish (which airs at 7:30 a.m.). The TV Mass is funded through a grant from The Catholic Foundation.

Started by KWGN-Channel 2 as a public service program prerecorded in their studio with support from the archdiocese, it was a mainstay there for 32 years before the station cancelled it in August 1998 citing cost constraints. Within a month, however, a donor stepped forward and the Mass found a home on KBDI-Channel 12, which aired the liturgy that was prerecorded by the archdiocese at the John Paul II Center.

Eventually, the archdiocese added a Spanish-language TV Mass. Several years ago, recording of the “Televised Mass” was moved to the mother church of the archdiocese.

This month auxiliary Bishop Jorge Rodriguez will bless the 60 volunteers and benefactors who make the TV Mass possible and will dedicate the liturgy to St. Clare of Assisi, the patroness of television.

“St. Clare was really sick and couldn’t make it to Mass, but she [miraculously] saw the Mass projected on the wall of her room and was able to follow it,” Seeman said, explaining why the 12th-century saint is the patroness of TV and, fittingly, of the “Televised Mass.”

The TV Mass draws a dedicated audience who follow the liturgy with missals the Communications Office provides to those who request them.

kelly-tv-1

Current TV Mass camera operator Kelly Seeman in the control room. The TV Mass airs every Sunday on CPT12 at 7 a.m. in English, and 7:30 a.m. in Spanish. (Photo provided)

“The people who call in for the free missals are thankful to worship and have a sense of community,” Seeman said, adding that the TV Mass offers a one-hour liturgy at Christmas and Easter.

Cathedral Basilica rector Father Ron Cattany serves as one of the TV Mass celebrants. It’s a ministry that has a special place in his heart.

“When my dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s a lifelong family friend said, ‘If Ted can’t make it to Mass he can watch it on TV,’” he recalled. “So we’d watch it on TV when we couldn’t make Mass at Mother of God (Church).”

In 2012 Father Cattany, who was then nearing the end of priestly formation, was assigned to Littleton’s St. Frances Cabrini Parish as a transitional deacon. The pastor, Father Sean McGrath, celebrant of the TV Mass when the Cattany family watched it in the 1990s, sent him a message of welcome. Deacon Cattany sent him a message back.

“I told him, ‘Even though we’ve never met in person, we’ve ‘met’ through the TV Mass!”

A year later, Father Cattany was invited to serve as a celebrant of the TV Mass. He immediately said yes.

“It’s a great blessing for me to be able to celebrate the TV Mass and be part of the ministry that our family benefitted from when my dad was sick,” Father Cattany said.

“I think of my parents and of us sitting in the den watching the ‘Televised Mass,’” he added. “It was a real spiritual lifesaver for my dad in those days.”

TV MASS

When: 7 a.m. English, 7:30 a.m. Spanish
Where: Colorado Public Television (CPT12)

COMING UP: Denver’s iconic Cathedral Basilica to undergo extensive repairs

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

What stands at 210 feet, contains ornate stonework dating back to the early 1900s, and is covered in $985,000 worth of scaffolding in order to be repaired?

The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception is one of Denver’s dearest landmarks, and it is in desperate need of repair. Father Ron Cattany, Pastor and Rector of the Cathedral, launched a capitol campaign Oct. 22, the feast day of St. John Paul II, to raise $2.4 million to repair the spires and Colfax facade of the Cathedral, which are in dire shape. Construction of the scaffolding began Sept. 19, and the project is well-underway.

A seemingly random event that occurred in March led to the revelation of the state of the building, one that required Father Cattany to act immediately.

“One of the grape clusters fell over the Holy Door,” Father Cattany recounted. “I thank God that when it fell between Sunday Masses, it fell at a time when nobody was there to get hurt. God’s providence always gets us the right message at the right time, and it’s our job to respond.”

Father Cattany contacted a local contractor, Summit Sealants, to conduct the repairs. The original plan was to have workers rappelling off the building and tapping the exterior to identify the pieces of stone that needed to be repaired.

cathedral-renovation-selects-4

Father Ron Cattany looks out toward the city of Denver from the roof of the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. (Photo by Andrew Wright)

“They started on June 1. On June 10, they stopped,” Father Cattany told Denver Catholic. “What they discovered was that some of the pieces were so loose that they were concerned both about the safety of their workers and the safety of the people.”

As a precaution, Summit Sealants asked Father Cattany to close the west entrance to the Cathedral and put fencing around the west side of the building to prevent passersby from getting too close. Summit Sealants submitted a new design process for the repairs, which featured words that were “shocking” for Father Cattany to hear.

“The direct quote, and that was when my heart stopped, was, ‘The entire building is in desperate need of repair, and it needs a full restoration,’” Father Cattany said. “Originally, it was anticipated that the job was going to be one month, and about $100,000. It’s now going to take six to eight months, the base cost is $1.7 million, and on top of that will be time and materials for anything that needs to be remade.”

The total cost is expected to be $2.4 million for this phase and an additional $1 million for the remainder of the structure for a total of $3.4 million, Father Cattany said.

The scaffolding alone, which the workers will use to access the exterior of the Cathedral and the spires and conduct the repairs, will cost $985,000. The four beams that will support the scaffolding weigh a total of 36,000 pounds.

In an email to Father Cattany from Lawrence Holland, project manager for Summit Sealants, the immense scale of the project was outlined rather succinctly: “I must emphasize again the complexity of designing and building a system that is virtually building a building over a building all the while maintaining the day-to-day operations of the parish.”

As a 104-year-old building, the Cathedral has undergone a number of renovations during its lifespan. Though the damage to the exterior can be attributed to normal deterioration, Father Cattany said that the building was sandblasted in 1963, and due to the harsher, more invasive sandblasting technology of the time, it left pock marks all over the stonework on the outside of the building. Father Cattany said that after 50 years of freezing and thawing, some of the carvings have now cracked, which is part of the trouble.

cathedral-renovation-selects-15

Deterioration of the exterior of the Cathedral during its 100-plus year lifespan has led to a capitol campaign aimed at raising $2.4 million to repair the spires and façade of the building. (Photo by Andrew Wright)

“There are carvings where you can remove a whole section like a piece of pie,” he said. “It’s shocking to see what’s happened.”

The Cathedral is near and dear to Father Cattany. He grew up attending Mass at the Cathedral with his family, attended Mass there during his 35-year career two blocks away, his grandparents were buried from the Cathedral in 1919 and 1920, and his cousin was baptized in the original baptismal font that remains to this day.

To highlight the significance of the Cathedral Basilica to the city of Denver, Father Cattany turned to the book Pinnacled Glory of the West, in which author and first Cathedral Rector Father Hugh McMenamin recounts the day of Oct. 27, 1912 — the Cathedral’s dedication date.

“What’s fascinating about it is that the concluding lines were, ‘And thus ended Denver’s greatest day,’” Father Cattany said.

The Cathedral is much more than just the mother church of the archdiocese, Father Cattany said. Even today, over 140 visitors enter through the golden doors to revel in its beautiful architecture and pray in its solemn silence. It’s a quiet refuge in the midst of bustling downtown Denver, and Father Cattany wants to ensure it remains open for all to enjoy, even during construction.

“This is a place of prayer, it’s a place of praise, it’s a place of peace, and it’s a place of preservation.” Father Cattany said. “This place is a special gift to everyone. It is a place that we want everyone to visit, to enjoy, to celebrate and to love.”

Cathedral Preservation Fund

One-time Donations can be made:
– By check payable to the Cathedral
– By donation online at denvercathedral.org
– By kiosk donation available in the church or rectory

Three-year pledges may be paid monthly or quarterly:
– Online at denvercathedral.org
– By check
– By direct deposit to the Cathedral’s bank account
– By check regularly mailed from the donor’s bank until pledge is fully paid

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article did not state that Premier Specialty Contractors conducted the repairs to the Cathedral in 1998. The article has been updated to reflect this.