Parishes using more apps to help members stay in touch

Stephanie Stewart is pretty excited that the Church is joining the 21st century of social media technology.

Recently Stewart, who is executive assistant to the rector at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston, introduced a new app to parishioners that will help them stay connected to parish life, and even held tutorial sessions after Masses for those who needed it.

It turns out the program is so simple, most people didn’t need any help.

“A lot of people would stop by and say, ‘Oh, I already downloaded it. It’s great!” Stewart said.

So what exactly does a parish app do?

As Stewart explained, “It’s a really great tool for keeping up with what’s going on in the parish.”

  • The Cathedral’s app keeps an up¬dated calendar of events and sends out messages and reminders about what’s going on in the church that users can then easily add to their phone calendar.
  • It provides readings of the day, Mass times, weekly homilies, and prayers.
  • It has all the church information, including staff names and numbers, plus all the bulletins, and offers newsfeed from national and international Catholic news.
  • It also lists sacrament of penance times along with a how-to guide, a preparation for examination of conscience and a reminder for your next confession.

Stewart said she especially likes the reminder aspect, which can be set for daily prayers and anything else a user wants to plug in. For example, Mass times and the parish location can be added to the phone and as the person is drawing close to the church at that particular time, the app can send a reminder to silence your phone.

Many of the apps available on the market allow parishes to customize them to the parish needs. Other parishes that are using apps include Blessed Sacrament in Charleston, Immaculate Conception in Goose Creek, Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Camden, and St. Anthony of Padua in Greenville.

Nancy Romaniello, parish secretary of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, said the office staff has been testing out their app so far, with plans to roll it out for parishioners in mid-April.

She said they had three tutorial sessions and it was easy to navigate. One aspect that she’s looking forward to is the ability to easily send mass message alerts and spread the word in urgent situations.

For example, Stewart said it would have been a great way to let everyone know about the white smoke for Pope Francis. “That would have been a really good alert,” she said.

Romaniello said she hopes the simplicity of parish apps will appeal to people at all levels of the technology spectrum.

“For those of us who are tech savvy and enjoy that, it’s wonderful. And it’s not so hard that you can’t get it,” she said. The bottom line is that it’s a great way to keep abreast of all the happenings at a parish.

“We hope it promotes more wide¬spread involvement with our parish,” Stewart said.