If you have ever turned on the television to see one of Buffalo's priests celebrating Mass, you can thank the crew of Daybreak TV Productions. The video-producing arm of the Diocese of Buffalo records over 300 liturgical celebrations every year at the Our Lady Chapel of St. Joseph Cathedral, just a couple of miles from their downtown Buffalo studios.
The taping of the Mass is how two members of the Daybreak staff start their weekdays. Ashley Czarnota and Andrew Golebiowski take turns shooting and editing the 7:30 a.m. Mass at the cathedral. It takes 15 minutes to set up and another 15 to pack up their equipment and bring the footage into the studio to edit. The daily Mass is taped live, then graphics are added to denote the celebrant and readings. Small bits, like the opening procession and Communion, may be cut out to fit the 29-minute time limit. Locally-recorded music is also added, as there is no music played in the chapel.
Once complete, DVDs of the finished product are delivered to Apollo Media Center and Spectrum Cable. Viewers can turn into Channel 20 on Spectrum at noon and watch that day's Mass. Later, the Gospel and homily are copied and posted on YouTube. Audio of the Mass is played on 101.7 FM WLOF radio at 9 p.m. So the Word of the Lord is available on three platforms.
"I'm surprised how many views it gets (on YouTube)," Golebiowski said. "It seems like a valuable service. The attention span online is so short, I'm not sure people would watch the entire Mass, but they seem to enjoy watching (the homilies)."
Sunday Masses take a lot more effort. They are shot in the Our Lady Chapel, just like the daily Mass, but at the rate of four a day over a week. Three cameras are used as opposed to the single camera of the daily Mass. The entire Daybreak crew gets involved.
Claire Rung, executive producer, and Paula DeAngelis-Stein, producer, organize the shoots, sifting through lists of priests, lectors and musicians who volunteer their time, then call and arrange the recording schedule. The cooperation they receive from the cathedral is remarkable. Regular Masses use the main altar to allow Daybreak use of the chapel.
Liturgically, once a Mass has begun, it can't be stopped until it has ended, so all the Masses are legitimate full Masses. "The spirituality and importance of the celebration of each Mass is never lost," said Rung.
Freelance associate Mary Quinlivan transcribes all the Masses. Then administrative assistant Ann Przybylski does the closed captioning. Fidelis Care covers the cost of the captioning.
"It's a very big production to try and get out the Sunday Mass because of the way we do it. It's in a cathedral rather than a studio, that we have to get them ahead of time," said Rung.
Daybreak began producing the Sunday Mass for over 20 years ago, after assisting WUTV for several years. The daily televised Mass came as a request from then-Bishop Henry J. Mansell. Daybreak has continued with Msgr. David S. Slubecky, vicar general, and Msgr. Paul A. Litwin, chancellor, who alternate celebrating.
"We like doing the Masses as a group," said Rung. "I think it's because we're at Mass and it's an opportunity for the whole staff to work together closely. We know when we have Masses coming up that it's a time when we need each other to do something that's very important and is holy. So, it's a special thing for us to do."
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has declared that watching the Mass on television is not a substitute for participating with the community, but realizes that the aged and infirmed sometimes cannot make it to church. In approved guidelines for televising the liturgy, the U.S. bishops have said, "Televising the Mass is a ministry by which the Church uses modern technology to bring the Lord's healing and comfort to those who cannot physically participate in the liturgical life of the local Church and who often experience a sense of isolation from the parish and its regular forms of prayer and worship."
For Dolores Fancher, watching the Mass on television is a second choice to the real thing.
"I would prefer to be at the church every day if I could, but I can't get there every day, or even every Sunday," the 82-year-old from Gasport said. She relies on friends or her children for transportation.
"I feel like I am participating when I can. I have total satisfaction with my personal beliefs, but I feel like I would like to share them or be part of a church group when I can," Fancher said, adding she attends St. John the Baptist in Lockport when she can. There, she sees a priest and receives Communion. At home, she follows along with the daily and Sunday Missals available through Daybreak.
Fancher wanted to show her appreciation for the office's help last year, and found that gratitude goes both ways.
"Because they were so good with everything, I sent a thank you note, and they sent a Christmas card with everybody's signature. I really liked that," she said.
Robert Joslyn, of West Seneca, used to attend Mass daily, at St. John Vianney in Orchard Park. He still makes it up there when he can, like on Ash Wednesday, but at the age of 94, he can't make it often. "This is my way of keeping up with my Catholic faith," he said.
The former Eucharistic minister to shut-ins now finds himself on the receiving end of that ministry, being visited every Sunday by some former teammates.
Joslyn wants to give a special complement to Father Jeffrey Nowak, who celebrated a "beautiful Mass" in April. Father Nowak served at St. John's for three years.
"I guess with Father Jeff, his voice comes around," Joslyn said. "I have a hearing problem. I seem to hear him better than some others."
For a full list of Daybreak TV programing, pick up a copy of the Western New York Catholic or visit www.DaybreakTV.org.