Deacon Mike Walsh prepares the altar before a taping of the Daily TV Mass. Mickey Conlon

Daily TV Mass seeing spike in viewers

By 
  • April 5, 2020

Viewership has skyrocketed, appreciative comments are flowing in from around the world and the phone is ringing constantly in the Markham, Ont., offices of the National Catholic Broadcasting Council. It certainly isn’t business as usual.

That’s a good thing for Deacon Mike Walsh and the council that has stepped up to the plate in a time of crisis, making sure people receive daily spiritual nourishment in the face of a nation that has closed just about everything, including churches. The Daily TV Mass has provided that nourishment for people who have turned to the service while their church life is severely disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“People are looking for something,” said Walsh, executive director of the National Catholic Broadcasting Council. “We’ve been working hard and (the response) has really been heartwarming.”

Since mid-March when churches around the country began to close to comply with calls from health authorities to restrict large gatherings, there has been a sharp spike in people turning to the Daily TV Mass and the Sunday Mass, on television and on the Internet. The last Mass before church closures began (March 9), drew 54,000 viewers. The next week that number tripled and since then each Sunday Mass has drawn a quarter million viewers on YouTube alone. The Daily TV Mass is also seeing more than 100,000 daily visitors, well above the numbers pre-COVID-19.

“People are finding it and the call volume has gone through the roof in the office,” said Walsh. “We’re busier than ever.”

Walsh expects that to continue through Easter as churches will remain closed. He said the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday and the Easter Sunday Mass will be broadcast from the chapel of Toronto’s Loretto Abbey, while the National Catholic Mission with St. Catharines Bishop Gerard Bergie will be broadcast on Good Friday and Holy Saturday.

The annual mission has been an Easter staple since 2000 and delivers a mission similar to those that take place during Holy Week in parishes. This year’s theme is “Touching God’s Compassion.”

What’s been most striking about the increased viewership to Walsh is the number of people from outside Canada who have commented and sent well wishes. A typical note came from Janet Clark from New South Wales, Australia, who thanked the council for providing a daily Mass in these troubling time.

“It was a special blessing to find this broadcast that is able to impart via the (Internet) what we cannot have in person at this present time … in very much the same way as we have had in personal experience,” wrote Clark.

“It really has become a universal, international gathering place for the Church,” said Walsh.

Toronto’s Cardinal Thomas Collins, a frequent celebrant of the Daily TV Mass, appreciates its reach to those who can’t get to a parish to celebrate Mass.

“As it has long been helpful for shut-ins, well, we’re all shut-ins now, so we do what we can,” said Collins.

Other services have been stepping up as well, with a number of parishes live-streaming Masses, including Collins’ daily celebration from St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica.

Radio Maria Canada has been operating its radio, and more recently online, ministry in Canada for 25 years. That anniversary was supposed to be celebrated in coming days, but because of the virus celebrations will be rescheduled. But not the daily services Radio Maria provides out of both Toronto and Montreal.

Director Fr. Jorge Duarte Amaro said Radio Maria continues to broadcast 24 hours a day in English, Spanish and Italian, with daily Masses and other programming. He’s added Sunday Masses as well, one in each language, that he celebrates in the Toronto office’s chapel.

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