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New app for Mass helps Catholics stay linked to the church's worship

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PORTLAND, Ore. — The pandemic, for all its horrors, pulled Catholics into the digital age.

Parishes scrambled to livestream Masses. Leaders such as Archbishop Alexander K. Sample of Portland launched popular live talks from his home chapel. With aplomb, Catholic schools converted to online learning.

And now a Portland-based not-for-profit liturgical publisher has released an app that gives quick digital access to church music, readings, prayers and the Order of Mass.

The Breaking Bread eMissal from Oregon Catholic Press is meant for individual Catholics, who want to follow along while watching from home, get prepared before attending Mass or participate more fully while in church.

The app, which has the approval of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is available from Apple and Google app stores for $4.99 for the 2021 liturgical year.

"It helps people stay engaged with their parish community, to enter deeply into the Word of God, and to otherwise pray, worship and sing along with the church in its daily and weekly liturgical rhythm, all from the convenience of their phones," said Wade Wisler, OCP publisher.

"That's why we developed it," he said. "We recognized the challenge people have at this time, especially with church attendance so limited. We hope it helps people stay close to Christ and grow in faith."

Because many parishes post song lists ahead of time, home users can organize hymns, psalms settings and Mass parts for specific upcoming liturgies so they are ready at the first notes of the opening antiphon or hymn.

Though no one seems ready yet to have a full congregation looking at phones or tablets during Mass, the USCCB has approved the eMissal for in-person worship, too.

"The app is completely resident on the tablet or phone, so there is no need to connect to the internet during the liturgy," a statement from OCP said. "We feel this is an important element in ensuring that even while using a mobile device, the focus will remain exclusively on the liturgy."

Parishes stopped leaving printed missals and hymnals in pews as COVID-19 emerged. At the start of the pandemic, OCP launched a personal missal program, sending books that parishes in turn distributed to members for home use or to bring to Mass.

The app offers another safe and intuitive way to sing and pray, said Paul Gilberto, marketing chief for OCP. "I like that it allows me to immediately access the next Sunday or holy day right from the home page," said Gilberto, a member of Holy Rosary Parish in Portland. He explained that even if worshippers do not get the songs arranged ahead of time, they are quick to find on the fly.

Gilberto said the app also can come in handy for family prayer outside the context of Mass.

OCP, publisher of the Catholic Sentinel and El Centinela newspapers of the Portland Archdiocese, is considering a Spanish version of the app if demand emerges.

More information about the eMissal app is online at ocp.org/bb-emissal.

Langlois is managing editor of the Catholic Sentinel, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021