TV Mass sustains worship life of many faithful
January 28th, 2009
By Michael O’Leary

It was an active Sunday afternoon at Aegis of Corte Madera assisted-living center. The main door swung open often as visitors came and went through the lobby. A dark-haired man in a chair carefully worked his crossword puzzle. He stood and greeted Msgr. Harry Schlitt when the priest arrived. Then Don Torre led him to his wife’s room.


Photos of Don and Noelle Torre’s three sons and daughter and their families decorate the walls of Noelle’s bright, comfortable room. After two hip surgeries, an impending knee replacement and indications of forgetfulness, the Torre family wanted Noelle to be safe and comfortable, so she has lived at Aegis of Corte Madera since September. As Msgr. Schlitt enters Noelle greets him with her huge smile.


Msgr. Schlitt visited Noelle because she is a parishioner of a special congregation - persons who are shut-in can attend Mass only via television.


Msgr. Schlitt is the easily recognizable celebrant of the San Francisco Bay Area’s TV Mass which is produced under the umbrella of God Squad Productions, Inc., which Msgr. Schlitt founded in 1968.


Noelle thanked him for helping her sustain that important connection with her faith. She noted that her TV “alarm” is set for Sunday mornings so she can watch the Mass each week.


A veteran of the broadcast media, Monsignor celebrates this unique liturgy looking directly into the television lens that is the eye bringing his image to the viewer. Participants often tell Msgr. Schlitt that the broadcast rite feels like their own private Mass even though they can only be observers.


In December, Msgr. Schlitt was host of a national Christmas television special, “Christmas Eve at the National Shrine of St. Francis,” which was taped at the Porziuncola Chapel of the national shrine.


Msgr. Schlitt held Noelle’s hand and offered a prayer for her and her family. The couple was delighted to have Noelle’s “parish priest” pay a home visit.


In his “other life,” Msgr. Schlitt is the Archdiocese of San Francisco’s vicar for administration and moderator of the curia.


According to Msgr. Schlitt, the many faithful who can only take part in Mass through its broadcast “can more completely participate if they are able to receive the Holy Eucharist.” Volunteers, he said, “are always needed to bring Communion to those who cannot get to Church.” He urged parishioners to consider exploring the ministry of extraordinary minister of the Eucharist.


Another enhancement of the TV Mass ministry that Msgr. Schlitt hopes to inaugurate soon is closed-captioning so that the liturgy can be more fully accessible to the hard of hearing. He is working to raise funding for it now.


TV Mass broadcasts on channel 26, channel 20 and channel 40 around the entire Bay Area and their associated cable systems. Consult Datebook for broadcast times.


Michael O’Leary directs the Archdiocese of San Francisco’s Office of Development.


From January 30, 2009 issue of Catholic San Francisco.