DE PERE — Tom Tengowski anticipates that on Friday, March 19, the streets near Old St. Joseph Church on the campus of St. Norbert College will resemble a familiar scene in northeast Wisconsin.
“It will look like a Packer game outside, with the satellite truck and production crews,” he said.
EWTN ( Eternal Word Television Network) will broadcast the Solemn Novena Mass at Old St. Joseph Church live at 5:30 p.m. on the feast of St. Joseph. Additional affiliates will connect with EWTN to broadcast the Mass. The liturgy will also be available for online viewing at ewtn.com/tv/watch-live.
Tengowski, a member of St. Norbert College Parish (Old St. Joseph Church), will work with the production crews. He has done extensive volunteer camera and sound work in the church, and will run the parish camera system that day.
“Production of (the live Mass) will be handled by (EWTN’s) studio and a third-party remote production team,” he explained. “For this Mass, our camera system will be used to augment their production. I will be providing camera feeds from our existing system to use in their production.”
Bishop David Ricken will be the celebrant at the Mass. Fr. Donald H. Calloway, a Marian Father of the Immaculate Conception, will serve as homilist. Fr. Calloway is the author of the book “Consecration to St. Joseph.”
Deacon Kevin DeCleene, pastoral leader at St. Norbert College Parish (Old St. Joseph Church), credits Norbertine Fr. Michael Brennan, vocation director for St. Norbert Abbey and director of the Shrine of St. Joseph, located at Old St. Joseph Church, for EWTN’s interest in broadcasting from Old St. Joseph.
“(Fr. Brennan) has a real deep devotion to St. Joseph. His interest and devotion have been creating more and more spiritual and worship experiences related to Joseph,” said Deacon DeCleene. “He’s looking for those opportunities to ‘go to Joseph,’ to pray together.”
Worship opportunities include 6:30 a.m. Mass on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays that include a novena to St. Joseph and prayers for vocations.
“As (Fr. Brennan) is doing these things, there is a group forming. He’s bouncing ideas off others. He’s at Relevant Radio talking to Fr. Rocky (Hoffman)and Drew Mariani. He then connects to EWTN,” added Deacon DeCleene in reference to how the televised Mass originated.
The feast day Mass will close the novena to St. Joseph, March 10-19, which includes liturgies at noon and 7 p.m. each day in Old St. Joseph Church and livestreamed at facebook.com/OldStJoes. The daily Masses are open to the general public. The final Mass is closed due to COVID-19 capacity limitations. The novena marks the 134th consecutive for the Norbertines.
Deacon DeCleene said that accommodations will be made for viewing.
“We will have some TVs in the shrine, in the Pennings Room upstairs, in the atrium,” he explained. “We had a group of 25 students who were trying to figure out (how to attend). We are a closed campus, so students can go to other buildings, the public cannot. We are asking this group of students to view the Mass through a feed. GMS (Gehl-Mulva Science Center) has a huge auditorium.”
An unveiling and blessing of the restored statue of St. Joseph will take place at the beginning of the Mass. A temporary statue is currently in the Shrine of St. Joseph. The official statue was sent to Chicago for restoration. It will be placed on the high altar in the corner of the church for the liturgy.
“The restorations included both of the crowns (Jesus and Joseph). They did repainting and replastering on the statue. There were some parts where the paint was starting to chip off,” said Michael Poradek, special assistant to the abbot at St. Norbert Abbey. “A few areas needed attention and general cleaning.”
The Mass is an opportunity to show Old St. Joseph Church to the world, said Deacon DeCleene. An EWTN staff member inquired about moving seating in the church to create specific camera angles. The request was refused.
“I want the world to see this church as it is, the Norbertine monastic setup with the presider sitting at the same level,” said Deacon DeCleene.
Preparations continue for the Mass. Deacon DeCleene pointed to the contributions of Poradek for coordinating the liturgy and Sara Masarik, who regularly attends Mass and novena on Wednesdays at Old St. Joseph, for managing the list of those who will attend the Mass in person.
The Mass is expected to bring more attention to the Shrine of St. Joseph, said Poradek.
“We hope that people will be able to join us when COVID is over,” he said. “We are planning ahead that we will have an increase in numbers visiting the shrine when it’s safe.
“(The shrine) is so understated. What does that mean?” Poradek added. “I think that speaks to the spirituality of the place. It’s a different type of experience. We’ve received requests from all across the country in recent days and weeks for (the feast day Mass). They are looking for this big complex. (The shrine) is actually attached to the church on the college campus. There is no restaurant, no visitor center. I think this will definitely put the shrine on the map for people who are not familiar with it. It will be exciting to welcome them when we can do so.”
Praying to St. Joseph is important at this time, said Fr. Brennan.
“Why go to Joseph now?” he asked. “We need him for his silent leadership, his humility and his courage.”