WHEC-TV and the Catholic Courier are announcing a partnership designed to make the Rochester NBC affiliate’s Sunday Mass more broadly available throughout the 12-county Diocese of Rochester.
For more than 50 years WHEC has televised a Sunday liturgy, principally celebrated over the past two decades by Father Thomas Mull, pastor of Our Lady of Peace Parish in Geneva. Commonly known as the “Mass for shut-ins,” the broadcast made it possible for people who are physically unable to get to church to participate in the liturgy long before the coronavirus pandemic sparked a proliferation of Masses available online.
WHEC currently broadcasts the liturgy at 5:30 a.m. Sundays, repeating it at 8 a.m. on its digital MeTV channel (over-the-air channel 10.2 and cable channel 1245), and streaming it on WHEC.com.
Now, as parishes have resumed the celebration of public Sunday Masses — while adhering to capacity and safety requirements — and Bishop Salvatore R. Matano winds down a months-long series of Sunday Masses streamed on the Courier’s website and YouTube channel, the newspaper’s partnership with WHEC will make the station’s Mass available to people throughout the diocese each weekend at a time of their choosing.
“I am pleased that WHEC and the Catholic Courier will work together during this coronavirus pandemic to extend the availability of the Sunday televised Masses to the Courier‘s website for those who are homebound or in healthcare facilities throughout the 12 counties of our diocese,” Bishop Matano said in a statement.
Bishop Matano offered Masses that were made available online beginning March 22, just days after the coronavirus pandemic forced the temporary suspension of Masses with the faithful present at diocesan churches. The bishop celebrated his last streaming Mass in the series July 26 in order to resume his regular visits to parishes throughout the diocese.
Beginning Aug. 2, area Catholics will be able to view the WHEC Mass on the Catholic Courier‘s website at https://catholiccourier.com. The Mass can be found in the Worship section under the website’s Faith & Family tab. Ads on the Courier website, in its three weekly e-newsletters and in the paper’s print edition will promote the partnership and how to access the Mass videos.
The idea of such a partnership was suggested in the spring by members of the Editorial Committee of the Courier’s Board of Directors, when it became clear that Bishop Matano eventually would need to be available on Sundays for his parish visits. Karen Franz, the paper’s general manager and editor, said she was very pleased by the willingness of WHEC management to permit the presentation of their content within the frame of another medium’s website.
“Led by Vice President and GM Richard Reingold, WHEC staff members were very open to our proposal, and have gone out of their way to facilitate the update of weekly Mass videos by our staff,” Franz said. “We’re very glad to be able to provide another way for Rochester and Finger Lakes residents to access streaming video of WHEC’s Mass broadcasts, and to make them accessible to Catholics in the Southern Tier, much of which falls outside of the station’s broadcast area. We’re very grateful to Dick and his staff for their very generous cooperation in this effort.”
Partnering with the Catholic Courier to make the weekly Mass available on the Courier’s website seemed like a natural extension of the service WHEC provides in conjunction with the Diocese of Rochester, said Reingold, whose station also broadcast Bishop Matano’s 2020 Easter Mass from Sacred Heart Cathedral.
“The more we can make it easier for people to watch the Mass, the better it is for everybody,” Reingold said. “Our station lives to serve the community. It’s got to be cliche, but I believe in doing well by doing good, and this is certainly a way to do good. It’s certainly a part of who we are, and we’re very proud of the program.”
Reingold said that over the years, Father Mull has shown himself to be a consummate professional and has become a part of the WHEC-TV family. Todd Graham, supervisor of the crew that records each Sunday Mass, has been working with Father Mull since 1996 and agreed that the priest is a valued part of the station’s family.
“Father Mull is exactly the man that you see on camera. He is warm, loving, quiet, friendly, courteous, humble and interesting,” Graham said. “Given a chance, he has a plethora of stories that will make you laugh your socks off. He’s a very special man, and I’m honored to have him as a friend.”
Bishop Matano said he is grateful to Father Mull for his continued dedication to offering the televised Mass and to WHEC for generously making the Mass available to the people of the diocese for so many years. The station first began airing the Mass back when then-Bishop Fulton Sheen was leading the Diocese of Rochester, most likely around 1965, according to Father Mull.
“It gives Catholics the opportunity to gather in prayer each Sunday, the Lord’s day, when they are not able to get to church to pray with their local community,” Father Mull said. “During the past months of pandemic, when all of our churches were closed, TV-10 provided one way for Catholics to continue to gather and pray as one, to share the weekly assigned readings, to be a part of the universal prayer of the church, and to be reminded that we are all in this together.”