Story by Reagan Scott
(SNR) - The regular broadcast of a televised Mass in Nebraska has its origin in the south-central part of the state, and came about as a result of the efforts of the Knights of Columbus.
Today, Mass for the faithful sick and homebound, is available on television, Catholic radio and the Internet, thanks to the support and contribution of individuals across the state.
In the early 1960s, Knights of Columbus councils in south-central Nebraska approached the Carlini family who owned KHAS-TV, to see if they could purchase time to air Mass each week.
The NBC affiliate, known as Channel 5, was located north of Hastings. The Knights purchased airtime on Channel 5 and the Carlini family constructed a chapel in their studio that included everything necessary for the celebration of Mass. Every Saturday, one of the priests from St. Cecilia Parish in Hastings—and the surrounding area as needed—gathered with local Catholics to tape the Mass for broadcast the next day, and it has been broadcast every week since.
Throughout the more than 50 years that the Eucharist has been broadcast on this station, there have been several locations where the celebration of Mass has been taped including local parishes in the viewer area.
Recognizing the importance and impact of religious broadcasting, evangelization and catechesis, the Knights of Columbus in central Nebraska stepped forward and offered to fund the production and broadcast airtime costs. Thirty-two Knights of Columbus councils have paid for the Channel 5 TV Mass for more than 50 years.
Channel 8, KLKN- eastern Nebraska’s ABC affiliate began broadcasting in Lincoln in the mid-1990s. It was then that the sales manager of the station contacted Father Kenneth Borowiak, the director of communications for the Diocese at the time, to see if the Catholic Church would be interested in buying airtime.
Father Borowiak approached Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz to ask if the diocese would be willing to buy airtime and suggested that a Mass be televised for the homebound. Bishop Bruskewitz asked Father Borowiak to gauge interest among priests and laity in the project, and the response was overwhelmingly favorable.
After negotiations with the studio, Bishop Bruskewitz signed a contract with KLKN that gave the diocese a half-hour time slot every Sunday morning, starting at 10 a.m. The Mass is now aired at 9 a.m.
Father Borowiak got in touch with pastors in the station’s viewing area to find parishes that would be willing to have Masses taped in their church. To maximize time and equipment setup, four Masses were usually taped at one parish in a given day.
Taping Masses at different parishes allowed viewers to see churches throughout the diocese and encouraged the involvement of local parishioners. During the Mass, various elements of each church were shown such as the altar, stained-glass windows and other architectural features.
“These Masses allowed parishioners to see a new dimension in their local Catholic churches and allowed people to take part in the New Evangelization that these Masses brought to the airways,” Father Borowiak said.
From the beginning, the Channel 8 Mass was met with enthusiastic responses. Pastors and Bishop Bruskewitz received feedback on a regular basis from Catholic viewers thanking the Church for making the TV Mass available for the sick, homebound, hospitalized and those in medical and other institutions.
The televised Mass is now under the direction of Father Andrew Heaslip, head of the office of religious education and diocesan digital media coordinator.
Five Masses are usually taped in one day, with volunteers serving as acolytes, lectors, cantors and organists. Some school choirs provide music for the Masses, as St. Joseph School in Lincoln did for the bishop’s Easter Sunday Mass taping recently. That Mass will air on Easter Sunday, April 1.
“I appreciate all those who assist the TV Mass production, and also the many donors across the diocese who contribute generously toward this important apostolate.
In recent years, donations made it possible to purchase equipment that allows the Mass to be broadcast in HD.
Spirit Catholic Radio, based in Omaha has been broadcasting Mass over the air seven days a week for over 19 years. Initially, all of the Masses broadcasted were recorded by EWTN at their studios in Alabama, but in 2002, that changed when executive director Jim Carroll came on board.
Today, Spirit Catholic Radio airs Mass at 10:30 a.m. Monday through Friday. This Mass is recorded at Christ the King parish in Omaha.
On Sundays, an EWTN Mass is aired at 7 a.m., and the audio from local Masses filmed in Lincoln or Omaha is broadcast at 12 p.m.
Carroll said, “We switch every other weekend between Omaha and Lincoln.”
Carroll noted the importance of broadcasting the Mass every Sunday.
“We know it’s very, very important for people who are homebound especially,” Carroll said. “We do it as a service for those who don’t have the opportunity to participate in Mass at their own parishes.”
The radio station is hoping to film and record the Sunday Mass in the Omaha studio’s Chapel of the Word Incarnate. The Serra Club of Omaha is working to purchase T.V. equipment to record the Masses to be broadcast on Spirit Catholic Radio and on television, as they are currently filmed at the WOWT studio in Omaha.
Carroll said he knows Spirit Catholic Radio is doing important work by helping to make sure that everyone has access to Mass in some way.
He said, “We know that [airing the Mass is] key to our mission of spreading the Gospel.”
Off air, a priest celebrates Mass at Spirit Catholic Radio’s Lincoln studio located at 630 N. Cotner on the first Friday of every month at 11 a.m., while the Omaha studio celebrates Mass every Friday at 11:30 a.m. All are invited to attend.
To support televised Masses in the Lincoln area, send donations to: TV Mass for the Homebound, 3700 Sheridan Blvd Ste 6, Lincoln NE 68506.