Please enjoy this “Behind the Scenes” blog on how our recent videos came to be and the talents behind them – indeed a team effort! Thank you, Lissa Druss, for your thoughts, input and expertise in bringing all this to life for our Friends of the Shrine.
For many years now, Fr. Fragomeni and I (Lissa Druss) have discussed videotaping our homilies and making them available to those who can’t attend Mass. While there is only so much “marketing” the Shrine (or a church) can do, let’s be honest, in any church, it’s usually the “personality behind the pulpit” that gets people to become Sunday churchgoers. To say our Shrine is special is an under-statement; so, if we were to say our Shrine is like other churches would be a joke – in a good way.
If our Shrine was a cake, our broken down ceiling, patchy walls, rickety pews, and chewed up kneelers would be the icing on our cake; Father Fragomeni and other “familial-priests” would be the beautifully scripted words on the top of the cake that guide us to what our cake is made of: our dedication to Mary, Queen of the Rosary.
Now, back to that discussion with Father. I was a television journalist for 21 years, and now run a company specializing in crisis communications. I am built with the creative thought on how to raise awareness of something (or in a crisis, kill the story, lol). The key to every good story is human relations, and at the Shrine, we are SPOILED with human relations. Name one other Sunday gathering where communion is delayed because Frank Rappa (and those of us who aspire to be like Frank) spends time visiting with others across the aisle during the offering of Peace, sharing warm and heartfelt greetings. So, many years ago, I asked Father if we could videotape the Homilies to raise awareness of the Shrine. He said no and shared with me a story: A while back, Father was the celebrant of an out-of-town service and received some not so nice comments about the Mass from some who didn’t exactly believe in our faith. So, I instantly understood why Father would not want to put parts of our Sunday service “on blast.”
But then COVID-19 happened. Shuttered Shrine doors meant the fear of a lack of Sunday donations. While we have been active with online giving for a while, it was not the base of our fundraising. That, along with canceling St. Joseph’s Day Table (which accounts for 9% of the Shrine’s yearly fundraising endeavors), we were faced with, uh oh.
How do we open the Shrine doors for donations without opening the doors? Quoting that old Peter Brady clip from the Brady Bunch: “When it’s time to change, you’ve got to rearrange.”
It was time to have our point guard take the ball out and rely on his teammates to execute an offense that scores – the outcome: “Mercoledi Moments.”
With my experience, shooting video on a tripod is relatively easy, but audio was a challenge. Without a proper wireless microphone interfaced with a video camera, as good as iPhone 11s are for video, the audio quality is like talking into a can. Our other teammate, Carl came to the rescue, and we figured out that Father should wear his Sunday wireless microphone. We would record audio in the Shrine’s audio system, and then, during editing, I would marry the audio file with the video.
“Mercoledi Moments” were born out of the Shrine having two main days of worship – Wednesdays and Sundays. The idea behind Mercoledi, the Italian word for Wednesday, was for Father to have a forum to talk to our Shrine family about anything topical, and not necessarily tied to the Gospel. With that, the Shrine launched its own YouTube channel (but, we’ve turned off the ability to leave comments). The first “Mercoledi Moment” was an absolute hit. And, thanks to our other teammates, Scott, Mary Beth, and Mary, we started a routine of putting the video on our Shrine website, putting out an eblast, posting on Facebook, and driving people to our TouTube link. Soon after the first “Mercoledi Moment,” we added Sundays. And by the grace of God, our Shrine family has shifted to online giving to help keep us going.
If you look closely, no two videos are the same. Carl works his heart out, changing the beautiful background of the altar for each and every video. During a normal taping, it’s just the three of us, and the tapings often turn into a comedy routine. Father tells us his pandemic-paranoia of the week and then asks what vestment he should wear (he has about 200!). Then starts the prodding of each other on what Father is going to say, if the mic is on, if we are recording audio, if we are recording video, if Father is “on his mark” (I created a little “x” with masking tape on the carpet in front of the altar) and, our recordings ALWAYS end with Father saying, “…was that okay? Should I do it again?” And each and every time I say, “Father, you could never recreate that message the same way again.”
All of our decorating volunteers and Shrine staff play incredibly special roles in making this all happen. Anyone reading this blog plays an incredibly important role in making our Shrine happen.
I have to honestly say, while I’ve been blessed to be able to walk into the Shrine twice a week for the last few months, it’s not the same. It’s empty.
Father has often spoken about the difference between hopes and hope. My hopes are that we all are able to come to the Shrine together soon to celebrate the Blessed Hope… and then we can ALL wonder together if Father has his microphone on and if Carl is recording.
Please keep the donations coming by giving online. They are what will allow us to keep our Shrine… Shining On for another 25 years.
Thank you again, Lissa, for your heart and dedication!
Until we meet again, blessings to you all,
P.S. We’ll be back Wednesday, May 20, with a “Mercoledi Moment,” and be sure to read about & join us for our upcoming Virtual Retreat, “Connecting our Hearts in this Time of Distancing,” Saturday, June 6, here.