The television broadcast of Sunday Mass has been a staple on Toronto’s CFTO station since 1987. The program takes the leap to a national audience beginning Sept. 2. Photo courtesy National Catholic Broadcasting Council

TV Mass brings its legacy to national stage

By 
  • August 25, 2018

When Msgr. Brad Massman launched a Sunday Mass TV broadcast for shut-ins in 1987, its future was, at best, uncertain.

It was set up as a one-year experiment by the Archdiocese of Toronto to see if there was an audience for it. Apparently there was. More than 31 years later — long after most TV programs disappear — The Sunday Mass for a Television Community is preparing for a new chapter in its evolution beginning Sept. 2 as it goes nationwide, expanding its reach and Massman’s legacy.

Massman, who is in his 80s, has stepped down from the ministry that has been filmed at the CFTO studios in Scarborough since its inception. The National Catholic Broadcasting Council (NCBC) will take over production as the program moves to the chapel at Loretto Abbey, where NCBC has produced the national Daily TV Mass since 2014. 

Along with the move comes a new name — The Sunday TV Mass — and new broadcast partners with Vision TV, Joytv, HopeTV and Yes TV (in Ontario and Alberta).

“The archdiocese was faced with a choice of assigning another priest and continue doing it the way they were doing it, or we’ve got this group that we work with … (and they’re) already doing it (with the Daily TV Mass),” said Deacon Mike Walsh, executive director of the NCBC. 

Massman was the director of communications for the Toronto archdiocese when the project began. He created a set at CFTO and arranged for a variety of lectors, musicians and clergy to celebrate the Mass, which was taped in advance. Walsh can’t stress enough the importance of what Massman has done over the past three decades.

“He is a true pioneer in the use of the medium of TV to evangelize to the faithful,” said Walsh.

Toronto’s Cardinal Thomas Collins is scheduled to celebrate the first Mass at Loretto Abbey for the program’s debut, which will also pay tribute to Massman for his long service as the show’s producer.

Walsh expects the move from studio to the Abbey’s beautiful chapel will be refreshing for viewers.

“People will notice the difference in the way the Mass looks,” he said.

The Sunday TV Mass will also benefit from joining the online presence the NCBC has been steadily tapping into. Walsh said the Daily TV Mass has seen substantial growth in its online audience and on its YouTube channel and Facebook pages. These platforms allow the Mass to be accessed at any time of the day anywhere in the world.

As with any new endeavour, Walsh understands there will be challenges, including finances. The archdiocese will sponsor The Sunday TV Mass until the end of the year but after that the NCBC will be looking for donors and sponsors to continue the broadcasts, much like the template that has allowed the Daily TV Mass to air for the past 20 years.

Another challenge will be getting word out that the Mass has moved from its familiar spot on the dial. 

“The only worry I have is people finding us,” said Walsh. “It hasn’t gone away. It’s got a new home and some new times.”

CFTO will help spread the news by joining the broadcast of the first Mass from Loretto Abbey and informing viewers where subsequent Masses will be broadcast as it moves to national exposure.

Vision will be airing the Mass Sundays at (all times Eastern) 8 a.m., Joy at 10 a.m. and Hope at 2:30 p.m. Yes TV will broadcast at 10:30 a.m. local time in both Ontario and Alberta. Further broadcast information is available online at dailytvmass.com/sunday-tv-mass. 

“We think The Sunday TV Mass is going to be welcome to lots of people right across Canada,” said Walsh.

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