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May 20, 2020

Faith Goes on the Fast Track to High-Tech During COVID-19 Shutdown

If some Catholic parishes were once reticent to engage the wonders of technology, the COVID-19 virus quarantine has now accelerated the embrace of media ministry.

As someone who has ministered in the tech space for nearly a decade, here’s some tips for best practices I’ve learned along the way. I offer advice from the three types of ministry I currently serve in: in-residence priest at the St. Monica Catholic Community in Santa Monica, California; Campus Ministry co-teacher at St. Monica’s High School; and producer-at-large at Family Theater Productions in Hollywood.

Learn the Technology

Beyond a literal pressing of the buttons on software like Livestream Studio 6 and hardware like the TriCaster, it's necessary to know know how to finesse camera shots that strike a nice balance between not being mundane, but not drawing attention to the shots themselves.

So, while a single low-angle shot from a webcam looking up the Mass celebrant’s nose might not be too appealing, overly distracting and jerky camera movement could make viewers queasy.

Remember, too, covering the Mass ideally simulates what congregants would be seeing if they were physically present. Remind the priest to make occasional eye contact with the camera(s) where appropriate in the order of the Mass. In periods of silence, I like to grab first-person POV shots of icons that adorn our church, as the parishioner would sometimes do, admiring the church art while praying silently.

And the most important crew member is someone who knows sound. In my world, putting out good sound marks the difference between amateurs and professionals. A fluent “soundie” can record sound and mix separate singers and musicians from a choir to approach the audio quality of A-list entertainment professionals, who are similarly relegated to recording content in their homes.

Empower the Young People of Your Parish to Assist in Media Ministry

The first year we offered a media class for the high school, there was a waiting list. The subsequent year, enrollment in the elective class dropped. My sense was that myself and the other teacher were explaining tools that every student already had a firm grasp of, and in a couple of cases, I recommended students to pursue media production as a career.

This generation has grown up with technology and possesses innate talents for photography, editing and sound mixing. They’re not just the Church’s future, but the Church’s present. Specifically, here at St. Monica’s, we invite the high-school students to take dynamic pictures, which later play as stills during school Mass.

Your young people are digital natives, so take advantage of their lifelong immersion in technology.

Create New Forms of Content

When Los Angeles County mandated the safer-at-home rule, Family Theater Productions used the limitation to our advantage, by pumping out more content that requires a solitary producer.

Father David Guffey,, C.S.C., head of production at FTP has repurposed and re-released our vintage radio dramas, created by FTP founder Father Patrick Peyton, by recording audio intros and outros and offering them for free on Souncloud (more platforms to come). Blog editor Kate O’Hare and I have increased the number of blogs we write here, which can be easily done in this telecommuting era.

Promoting our feature-film content can also work over Zoom interviews with media outlets. And in the case of livestreaming our Sunday Rosary on the FTP Facebook page, we accomplish the task with a minimal crew that socially distances.

Necessity Is the Mother of Invention

Few people relish facing seemingly insurmountable challenges and having their daily lives and livelihoods upended, but in every crisis, human ingenuity finds new ways to doing old things and invents new things.

The Catholic Church may be a bit late to the tech game in some ways, but as it has for 2,000 years, the Faith finds a way to reach the faithful.

Image: Adobe Stock

Click here to visit Father Vince Kuna’s IMDB page.

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