Parishes make digital connection with apps

by MARK CIEMCIOCH
Tue, Nov 15th 2016 10:00 am
Online Content Coordinator
Area Catholics at St. Mary of the Angels Church, Olean, look over information on an app that parishioners can use to find Mass times, set confession appointments and reflect on readings. (Dan Cappellazzo/Staff Photographer)
Area Catholics at St. Mary of the Angels Church, Olean, look over information on an app that parishioners can use to find Mass times, set confession appointments and reflect on readings. (Dan Cappellazzo/Staff Photographer)

Some people take home their parish bulletins and hang them up on their refrigerator. Now St. Mary of the Angels Church in Olean is making an even stronger connection to its parishioners by putting new updates right in their pockets.

The parish recently worked with the My Parish App service to create their own parish app that helps the faithful with convenient Mass times, messages, daily readings, audio homilies, confession opportunities, prayers, parish bulletins, event calendar, news and more. It will even set your phone to silent automatically when you enter the church.

My Parish App is a service provided by Diocesan Publications Inc., a company that publishes church bulletins for communities across the United States. Jennifer Kane, director of communications for St. Mary of the Angels Parish, explained that churches using Diocesan Publications can have them develop the app for free.

"We took advantage of that," Kane said. "This gives us another tool to help engage our parishioners throughout the week outside of Masses. It keeps them engaged not only with their parish, but their faith life."

Another Southern Tier parish, Our Lady of the Angels in Cuba, also has its own app. The parish is linked with St. Patrick in Belfast and St. Patrick in Fillmore, and collectively the app covers the Northwest Catholic region of Allegany County. Their app has quick links for prayer, faith formation and education, Mass times, directions to any of the involved parishes, bulletins, social media links and more. They developed their app through the Parish Solutions Company at www.parishsolutionsco.com.

Digital devices are becoming an essential part of daily living for many Catholics. It's only natural that parish communities consider organic ways to include someone's faith life as part of their regular digital routine.

"Recent studies show that people check their phones up to 150 times a day," Kane said. "They're looking at them throughout the day for many different reasons. We want to occupy some of that time. Sure they can go to our parish website to get some of this information, but now they have a parish icon on their phone. This gives them something else to do in their spare time. Yes, it has practical things on it like Mass times (and) contact information, but it also has the daily readings, a confession guide and an examination of conscience (with) different articles you can read about living your Catholic faith in everyday life.

"You're engaged in your faith life in a different way. It's offering avenues to engage your faith during the week."

After launching the St. Mary of the Angels app during the summer, about a quarter of the community's parishioners have downloaded and used the app so far.

My Parish App is available on both Apple and Android devices. Users can either visit myparishapp.com or search for My Parish App in the app store to download it to their phones. Once the app launches, users can search for the nearest parish that uses the application or look for a specific church by name. They can also text App to 88202 to download the app.  

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