Story by Jennifer Mauro | Managing Editor
Women in hats of pale pinks and yellows, men in light-colored suits and Catholic school students wearing pastel dresses or button-down shirts filled the pews of St. Catharine Church, Spring Lake, Nov. 30 three days before Advent – for Easter Mass.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Cole Kozlowski, a student in the town’s St. Catharine School, one of hundreds of faithful of all ages who came together with Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., to be part of an Easter Mass filmed by the Diocese.
Photo Gallery: Taping of Easter Mass
Filmed by the diocesan Department of Multimedia Production, the taping will serve as the Mass to air on ABC across the nation on Easter Sunday and others as part of their Easter weekend programming.
“I want to say ‘thank you’ to the Bishop for having this Mass. It’s very important and a big responsibility,” Kozlowski said.
Months of preparation and communication went into coordinating the taping after the Diocese was asked if it would be interested in taping the Mass. After being recommended by the Diocese of Buffalo, N.Y., which has aired Trenton Diocese’s television productions for many years, diocesan staff were contacted by the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission.
“I think it’s an honor and great opportunity to present the Easter Mass to people all over the country. It’s a great witness,” said Marianne Hartman, department director.
St. Catharine Church, with its neoclassical arches and pillars, and ceilings and walls adorned with artwork reminiscent of Raphael and his Renaissance contemporaries, was Bishop O’Connell’s first choice to serve as the filming location.
“We’re very lucky to have the church that we have,” said Lisa Cole, parish business manager. “People come from all over, and to know that even more people get to see it now on television makes me happy.”
Indeed, the church was full to its more than 300-seat capacity as Bishop O’Connell preached an inspirational Easter homily that addressed the hope, ministry, suffering and transformed existence of Jesus as well as that potential that lies in every person of faith. The Bishop spoke of how the Gospels are largely silent about Jesus’ youth until his public ministry at age 30 and death only a few years later.
“Although Jesus was unknown for most of his life, he certainly attracted enough attention in those three years to make people hope,” the Bishop said from the ambo in the sanctuary, which was adorned with flowers.
The Mass, concelebrated by Father Harold Cullen, parish pastor, parochial vicar Father Martin O’Reilly, and Father Michael Wallack, director of vocations and secretary to the Bishop, drew faithful from across the Diocese, including busloads of Catholic school students. In addition to those from St. Catharine School, students from St. Rose High School, Belmar; Trenton Catholic Academy, Hamilton; St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel, and Mater Dei Prep, Middletown, attended the Mass, many serving as greeters or helping out by collecting release forms from the congregants who would appear on film.
Freelance videographer Frank Lettieri Jr. – who directed the filming, working alongside Ryan Larason, videographer/producer for the Department of Multimedia Production – said he believed that the months of planning, securing the proper equipment and scouting the location will come across in the quality of the final production.
Because the church is a series of curves and pillars, resulting in areas of shadows, the production crew required additional lighting and camera equipment. To avoid disturbing the architecture, the crew rented broadcast-quality equipment, including a light balloon that hovered about 20 feet above the congregation to illuminate the church and a jib on which a video camera seamlessly captured different views of the service.
“The lighting was designed to allow us to capture the beauty of the Mass and the church at their full potential,” Larason said.
Other cameras took closer shots of the Bishop and his fellow priests, the parish musicians and choir, and individual Mass-goers and servers.
“It was a way to present the Mass in a very cinematic way that people don’t often get to experience when they’re sitting in a pew,” Lettieri said.
Hartman agreed, saying, “They really captured the beauty of the Mass.”
Helping to make the effort a success were Monte Brothers Sound Systems, based in New York, which donated $3,000 toward the light balloon rental, and Bouquets to Remember, Manasquan, which discounted the flowers.
Some in attendance said they found the entire experience moving, especially how the intimate setting put the focus entirely on Jesus.
After all, said parishioner Dee Vielkind, “He is the main event.”
Cole said she was hopeful that the beauty of St. Catharine Church, rich in symbolic religious artwork, would accentuate the Bishop’s homily for all those who tune in this April.
“I hope they’ll get the message of Easter,” Cole said. “Hearing the Mass and seeing our church, we hope, will bring them happiness.”
The Monitor will report broadcast information closer to Easter.