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12/21/2017 9:00:00 AM
CRESCENT AND TROY
Coming soon to a parish near you: live-streamed Masses
BY EMILY BENSON
STAFF WRITER

On the third day, God created live-streaming.

Maybe it wasn't that easy. Yet, for many parishes across the Albany Diocese, the prospect of live-streaming Christmas and Sunday Masses on a regular basis for homebound or ill parishioners is becoming a reality.

"Live-streaming" refers to either posting Masses on the internet for Catholics to watch from home as they're happening, or having a camera in the church during crowded holiday Masses and a projection screen in another room, so the overflow crowd can participate in the Mass from there.

ST. MARY'S, CRESCENT
St. Mary's parish in Crescent began preparations to install live-streaming capabilities in the summer, after it became evident that its worship space couldn't hold the number of attendees expected at its popular 4:30 p.m. Christmas Eve Mass.

"Last year, we had about 30 to 40 people standing, and we knew this year we would be packed," explained Stephanie Nolet, pastoral associate for administration. "[The] 4:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. [Masses] are usually packed, and 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., they'll be full.

"This year, we're only offering the 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Masses, saying, 'Now there's room, so come on down.'"

Back in July, St. Mary's received a $9,000 grant from the Diocese to put toward equipment and electrical work necessary to set up live-streaming. The parish center already had a projector on its ceiling that projects onto a white wall and speakers mounted around the room; now, the parish could project Christmas or Easter Masses from the worship space into the parish center.

Ms. Nolet said that, once the parish had everything installed, parish leaders thought, "Why only do this twice a year?"

Since St. Mary's also has its own YouTube channel, the parish began live-streaming its 10:30 a.m. Sunday Mass onto YouTube starting the first Sunday of Advent. Ms. Nolet said that offering Mass online is a great way for the parish to reach homebound and ill parishioners who can't get to church.

"It's a nice way to keep connected, and it's a nice way to let everyone know, 'You're still a part of this parish,'" she said.

OUR LADY OF VICTORY
St. Mary's is not alone. Our Lady of Victory parish in Troy will be live-streaming its children's Christmas Eve liturgy to its own YouTube channel and hopes to live-stream its Christmas Day Mass, as well.

OLV began live-streaming its Sunday Mass to YouTube in September after three years of preparations. In 2013, OLV received a $10,000 grant from the Diocese that was used to set up Smart TVs in the children's liturgy room, as well as live-streaming into its parish center as an overflow space for crowded Masses.

"From the evangelical point of view, it really is necessary [to offer live-streaming]," said Vici Armsby, pastoral associate for faith formation. "It will allow us to be more present for the community at large."

Ms. Armsby sees having an online presence as a direction in which many parishes are heading.

"We are trying to be on the cutting edge on where we think things are going, and keep the people engaged and [meet] the people where they are," she remarked. "It's not just bringing them the Eucharist, but having them still feel as if they're a part of your community."

Jason Husch, an audio/video technician with the diocesan Information Technology Office, has been helping parishes set up their live-streaming capabilities. He said he's encountered some concerns that having Masses available online will take Catholics away from attending in person -- but what's actually happening is that parishioners are going back and re-watching old Masses on their parishes' YouTube channels.

"It's funny: During the live stream, you get a handful of views, unless it's Christmas Eve Mass or something; but, over the next couple of days, that Sunday Mass that had a few live-stream views now has 100 views," Mr. Husch said.

Ms. Armsby has noticed a similar trend: "There might have been something that really hit [a parishioner] in the homily or a particular song that they really liked, and they go back and listen to it again."

It's all part of a new direction for the Church, she said. "If we want to be prevalent and present to the community, I think we'll see more and more parishes doing this."





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