Viewers throughout the country will tune in to Bishop Richard J. Malone and a full Mercy Center Chapel in Buffalo as he celebrates Christmas Mass which will be broadcast on NBC affiliates on Christmas day, courtesy of Daybreak Television Productions and the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission.
The Mass will air on WGRZ-TV Ch. 2 at 1 a.m., 5 a.m. and 11 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 25.
The Mass was celebrated by Bishop Malone, with Father Ryszard Biernat serving as the master of ceremonies and Transitional Deacon Thomas M. Mahoney as Deacon of the Word and Eucharist. Sister Mary Ellen Twist, RSM, principal of Mount Mercy Academy, placed the baby Jesus in the manger.
"(IBC) is a group of mainline, interfaith, various religious groups that provide programming, through this organization, to ABC, NBC and CBS affiliates. Those networks have time set aside specifically for various religious programming," said Claire Rung, executive producer of Daybreak. "Fortunately, this is the third national liturgical televised Mass we have produced, so we have learned from each experience."
Earlier this year, Daybreak provided Bishop Malone's nationally broadcast Easter Mass on ABC, recorded at St. Joseph Cathedral in downtown Buffalo. Bishop Emeritus Edward U. Kmiec presided at ABC's nationally televised Christmas Mass, recorded at Felician Sisters Immaculate Heart of Mary Chapel in Buffalo, in 2011.
Rung first had to receive permission from Bishop Malone to proceed. Then, the planning formally started with a production meeting, where Rung addressed negotiations and legal matters with a producer for IBC in New York City. The original plan was to record the Christmas Mass on a college campus, but the team was unable to find a campus chapel whose layout was suitable for seven cameras.
"We'll be using seven cameras on this production, so we have a lot of cables we have to run. We have to set up a control room, and that has to be close to the chapel," Rung said. "We decided on a high school. Our engineer, Peter Herrmann, and John Epolito, our chief videographer, went to Mount Mercy Chapel and decided, for their technical needs, that that was the best place to produce this Mass."
Paula DeAngelis-Stein, senior producer and director of Daybreak Productions, said the majority of Mass participants, including all the people in the pews, were Catholic, public and homeschooled students. "We invited religious education confirmation students, so there were young adults from the public schools as well," Rung added. "We have people coming from Batavia, Niagara Falls, Buffalo and Olean."
Readers included Isaiah Utley of St. Francis in Athol Springs, Mary Bernadette Bochicchio of Notre Dame in Batavia, and Anthony Lirano of St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute in Kenmore.
Altar servers at the Mass were Veronika Tibold of Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart in Amherst, Jared Negron of Canisius in Buffalo, Josh Rung of Clarence High School, Rosalie Constable of Frontier Central in Hamburg, Hanni Htat of Mount St. Mary Academy in Kenmore, Juan Ramos of Lackawanna High School, Christopher Kovach of Starpoint in Lockport and Maggie St. Pierre of Cardinal O'Hara in Tonawanda. David and Rachel Whalen, both students at Williamsville South, were the gift bearers.
The music ministry consisted of Mount Mercy Academy's handbell choir, Magic Belles, women's choir and St. Joe's Varsity Singers. Fred Kirisits, director of music at Mount Mercy, said he met with Erin Coyle, vocal music director at St. Joe's, and Sister Mary Ellen Twist, RSM, president of the high school, to decide on the musical selection and the specific arrangements.
"In light of the fact that there are many excellent high school choirs in Western New York, we are highly honored to be chosen, along with students from St. Joseph Collegiate Institute, to form the 40-voice choir for this special Christmas Mass," Kirisits said in October. "The students in the choir, and those forming the congregation, are very excited for this opportunity, and have spent many hours in order to be at their best for this once in a lifetime opportunity."
Eucharistic ministers were Sean Morrisey of Bishop Timon in Buffalo, Serge Muharareni of Hutchinson Central Technical in Buffalo and Gabriella Simoneit of Niagara Catholic in Niagara Falls, as well as five Religious Sisters of Mercy who live at the convent: Sister Thomas Marie Murphy, Sister Jane Muldoon, Sister Margaret O'Donnell, Sister Meg Quinlan and Sister Diane Swanson.
Sister Diane, who assisted Rung and DeAngelis-Stein in preparing for the Mass, said the chapel, which holds approximately 250 people, has choir stalls on both sides and stained glass windows. Its architecture is very similar to that of many chapels built in Ireland in the 18th century, and she affirmed that she is pleased to be a part of the Christmas Mass, an important event for many people of faith.
"(The architecture has) a gothic type of feel to it. It created a feel that is very beautiful, prayerful and peaceful," Sister Diane said of the chapel. "I think it's a wonderful gift to be part of being able to be present to the millions of people who will be watching, especially those who are housebound, and to know that there will be a source of joy and peace that will come from worshipping in this space."
"I think it's very humbling to do something like this. Daybreak works as a team," added DeAngelis-Stein. "It's the only way we get results, and we do that all the time."
Rung also wished to thank designer Dianne Sipple, a parishioner of St. Christopher Parish in Tonawanda, and Joseph Auer, supervisor of building maintenance at Mercy Center, for their "tireless work decorating the chapel for Christmas," in preparation for the recording of the Mass.
You can find a complete listing of air times nationwide by clicking here.