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TV Mass ministry marks 50 years

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)

Roxanne King
Roxanne King is the former editor of the Denver Catholic Register and a freelance writer in the Denver area.
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