Hidden away in a control room in the choir loft, Adam Saviano, age 13, sits at the helm controlling dual projectors, while Tom Murray, 70, operates a video camera trained on the altar. Harry Richard, 58, sits nearby, offering guidance.
The three take direction from brief scripts provided by the parish Liturgy Committee.
Right on cue, in place of the homily, Saviano runs the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal video.
Later in the Mass, Murray activates “Camera 1” on a tripod for a “live capture” of a young woman in the sanctuary as she signs her name in the parish book of names for the rite of sending. The young Saviano projects the signing live on-screen.
Then, before the final blessing, Saviano runs a two-minute video titled “Go Into the Desert This Lent.” The video invites parishioners to wander into the desert, like Moses and Jesus, to be alone with God in prayer.
After the Mass, Richard shuts off all the equipment. It’s a wrap — the end of another successful session by the St. Dominic Media Team.
Ahead of its time
The team has been in service at St. Dominic’s for nearly 15 years. To reinforce the Gospel message, its members use cameras and projectors to show multimedia presentations and to capture special Masses live on-screen.
The media team has evolved over the years, but its mission remains the same. The team continues to enhance the liturgy by engaging parishioners in the Mass, by creating a stronger sense of community and by assisting the pastor in catechesis.
“When I came here, it was already established by Father Henry Frescadore,” explained Father Ronald May, the current pastor. “I pretty much followed it, too. It’s a good vision.
“For Advent and Lent, we show some kind of video. Sometimes, there’s just a background image on-screen while I preach,” Father May explained. “For the Easter Vigil, we have a camera outside telecast the fire ceremony [onto screens] inside. On Palm Sunday, we have people process all around the church. We just put it on screen and the kids love it.”
Leeanne Frisina, coordinator of the media team, said the Media Ministry is great for a large parish, such as St. Dominic, which serves 2,200 families. It helps improve visibility and engagement by capturing the entire liturgy for major holidays and sacraments for all to see.
Special services are projected live on the two screens in the main church, plus on a third screen in an attached parish hall, where overflow parishioners are seated. “Before,” Frisina said, “we just used to open the doors and they couldn’t engage.”
Mary Ann Plourde, the parish’s lay liturgy minister, said better visibility for all equals deeper catechesis.
“Before, at the Easter Vigil, if we had an opportunity to have a baby baptized, no one could see that — all the joy, the anointing and Father pouring the water over the child’s head,” Plourde said. “Now they can.”
The team and its technology
Media team members use up to three cameras to capture Masses live on-screen. They also show prepared multimedia presentations. All of their work is orchestrated from the control room, which resembles a TV station’s control room.
All presentations begin with Plourde and the Liturgy Committee. The liturgy team develops themes and ideas that correspond to the liturgy. Then Frisina obtains related video or images from outside sources, along with the legal permission to use them. Or she assembles words and images into original presentations.
Parishioners contribute many of the photos used, such as close-ups of the parish icons and seasonal decorations.
Then the media team takes over. Frisina likens the team to a group of stage hands. “Our goal is to remain behind the scenes and help enhance the liturgy. If we do our jobs right, no one knows we’re there,” she stressed.
Frisina’s media team includes 11 volunteers — three of them teens. Ten are male and one is female. “I’d love to see some young women,” Frisina said.
Engaging the next generation
The media team helps to focus all parishioners’ attention on the liturgy, but the team itself has a unique appeal for young people.
Adam Saviano, who ran the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal video, said he joined the team last fall after reading a request for volunteers in the Sunday bulletin.
A seventh-grader at Watkinson School in West Hartford, he likes the mix of technical and creative in all things, including computer programming, videos and art.
“The media team is friendly, and it’s just fun to load the cameras and press the buttons,” he said. “Tom Murray trained me in the camera. He’s a good teacher. Also, Harry [Richard] taught me the controls for the equipment.
“It’s a good program. It kind of prepares you to work at a news station — to be the camera man or the person who presses the buttons.”
The most challenging thing about it, he admitted, is the pressure. “You’re presenting in front of all the people and if you make a mistake, you make a mistake,” he said. Once, he pressed a wrong video button, but was able to quickly correct the situation.
This particular Sunday, there were no problems, despite the fact that he had to project two videos and one live feed.
“It was good, smooth,” he said.
Shane Domian, 15, a sophomore at Southington High School, also joined the team this year. “I really like technology,” he said, “and I saw all the videos at church and was wondering how to get into it.”
When he spotted the call for volunteers in the bulletin, he saw his chance. “I like that it’s simple once you get the routine down and you can easily control the projectors,” he said, but the camera work is much more challenging.
Participating in the Mass, Domian said, has given him a new appreciation for all that goes into it. “It’s just given me more background on the Church,” he explained, “and how everything works.”
Erik Kryzonski,18, a senior at Southington High, will head for Central Connecticut State University in New Britain after graduating this month.
Two years ago, he expressed an interest in helping out with the Nativity play and was directed to the media team, which captures the event live. “I’ve always had a fascination with film and media,” he confessed.
“During the play, I was up in the choir loft filming the whole thing,” he said. “Anything I captured on camera was shown on-screen and gave anyone watching the play a better view.
“The camera work is not difficult, but it requires some skill. You can’t be too fidgety, and everything has to be in sync with the other camera operators,” he said. “So you have to play your role and play it well.”
In retrospect, Kryzanski said he now sees the volunteer work as a bit of a calling. “God calls on everyone to help other people and organizations,” he said. “I guess he’s called on me to help out and participate to make the Mass and the Nativity play more interactive.”
He said the experience is helping him to come into his own as a more active member in his parish. “The media team has allowed me to serve a bigger role at St. Dominic Church,” he said. “It has allowed me a greater understanding that I can have a big impact on the parish and get closer to God.”
Leeanne Frisina — Media team coordinator
At the turn of the century, Father Henry Frescadore, then pastor of St. Dominic Parish, put forth a vision he called “Parish of the Future.” The aim was to create a parish to meet the changing tempo and needs of the 21st century.
Leeanne Frisina, now 50, began around that time as a part-time office assistant. Today, she is in a unique full-time position as coordinator of the Parish Information and Communications Center, manager of information technology and coordinator of the media team.
Over the years, as the technology demands of her job grew, she grew with it, gaining her certification in information technology. “If it has a plug, they call me,” she said.
In 2004, a donation from several parishioners and one primary donor allowed the parish to purchase its current media equipment. The media team was born and she became its leader.
She researched the media team concept, which she said is popular in other regions of the country. She also reassured parishioners that there would be no commercial advertising at Mass.
“We’re sensitive that this is a Mass, not a production. We are here to assist and aid,” she stressed. “We are not about putting on a show. It’s all about being here in community to pray.”
As media team coordinator, she said, she had the honor of crawling on her hands and knees, running cables through the choir loft, to set up the system. She is also responsible for equipment maintenance, team member scheduling and recruitment. Frisina works directly with the lay liturgy minister and the Liturgy Committee to assemble their ideas and content into multimedia presentations. She also tests the final media creations to ensure they will run smoothly.
Then media team members project the final results.
“I’m part of a great team,” Frisina said. “I love what we do. I think it’s a wonderful way to engage parishioners.”