The Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary was able to enter thousands of Albertan homes during the Lenten season thanks to the Access52 streaming expertise. Photo by Yuan Wang

Crisis creates opportunity

By  Quinton Amundson, Youth Speak News
  • April 22, 2020

CALGARY -- The Calgary-based charity Access52 was fully immersed in providing teens, parents and teachers from Catholic and public schools with live motivational events when the COVID-19 pandemic slammed the doors shut on its audience.

But with that door closed, another one opened at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary. With churches closed and Holy Week coming up fast, the diocese was looking to quickly pivot to presenting virtual Sunday and Holy Week Masses from St. Mary’s Cathedral.

Enter Access52 and founder Michael Chiasson, who presents multi-media motivational presentations to about 30,000 people a year in Catholic and public schools.

Chiasson said: “The diocese was like, ‘Listen, we’ve had to shut our churches down. This has been a shock, and our rhythm has been interrupted. Is there a way you can help us present the Mass online?’ ” said Chiasson.

Immediately, Chiasson began connecting with local partners to assemble a crew that would oversee a 10 a.m. Mass on March 22, 29 and April 5, and every single Holy Week celebration, all of which were presided over by Bishop William McGrattan.  

One obstacle in their path was the Government of Alberta’s public health order to restrict gatherings to a maximum of 15 people in a single room. 

“We had a three-camera setup, but the great thing was that just one of the cameras was manned, and the other two were robo-cams that could be controlled by one person,” said Chiasson. 

In addition to the two videographers, Access52 had two or three more people on-site during the recordings, which included an audio technician and a video supervisor. 

Internet speed proved to be problematic on occasion as the cathedral was not conceptualized as a setting that would routinely host high-bandwidth productions.  

“We were constantly figuring out how to test as much as we could,” said Chiasson. “There were hiccups along the way and some things beyond our control.”

Chiasson estimates that each production required about five hours of work, which included filming messages from McGrattan that appeared on the live-stream as soon as the Mass concluded. 

Nadia Hinds, the communications director for the Diocese of Calgary, told The Catholic Register that the diocese was “grateful for the discount Access52 provided to us for their services.” She added that TELUS Optik TV was a key partner in this enterprise as the company allowed the diocese to televise the Masses for free and that the peak audience was “over 11,000 viewers in one sitting of the Mass.”

Access52’s Mass broadcasting work concluded on Easter Sunday as the diocese assembled the resources to carry out virtual celebrations in-house.

The Access52 team will remain busy during the COVID-19 crisis as it churns out inspirational videos.

Chiasson says he and his team will look back on their venture with the diocese with fond memories. 

“We’re grateful to share in this experience in the diocese, and that we brought them peace and joy with what we offered.”

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