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Catholic Church in Miami plans airport Mass, goes mobile

Prayer is on the move in South Florida.

First, the Archdiocese of Miami began streaming religious podcasts in Spanish through a mobile app. Now it will also hold weekly Mass at the airport.

Religion-to-go is all about accommodating the faithful wherever they are, which often means catching the faithful at the airport. Starting on Aug. 18 at 7 p.m., the archdiocese will have a Mass every Saturday on the fourth level of Terminal D at Miami International Airport.

Airport spokesman Greg Chin said it’s a “high traffic area” because of the presence of American Airlines, which he said runs about 70 percent of flights from the airport.

The current chapel sits before security checkpoints, so passengers and others can access it before catching a flight or after dropping someone off. The Catholic Church isn’t alone at the interfaith non-denominational chapel. Baptist and Protestant Bible studies already take place on a weekly basis.

Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski said in a statement that most major airports offer such services, including John F. Kennedy in New York, O’Hare in Chicago and Benito Juárez in Mexico City.

“An airport with its many thousands of employees and hundreds of thousands of passengers is like a large city in itself,” Wenski said. “A chapel and the ministry that takes place there helps make the airport more of a community — for both employees and passengers alike.”

Deacon Dennis Jordan has been the chaplain of the airport chapel since 1999. He said the project to have Mass at the international hub has been in the works since he was assigned the position.

The chapel is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and Jordan said it is especially comforting as a place of rest to people with delayed flights.

He added that a large South American population passes through the chapel because those flights usually leave at night and offer more time for a spiritual break. With MIA’s more than 18 million international passengers in 2011, many from Latin America, Jordan said he expects the Mass to be popular.

“They come to the chapel to get some peace of mind,” Jordan said. “It’s the only place of peace you can go to in a busy airport.”

Jordan said different religious leaders will be conducting the service every week. The inaugural Mass will be headed by the Rev. Roberto Cid, pastor of St. Patrick Catholic Church and general director of Radio Paz.

Radio Paz, 830-AM, also has made it easier for Spanish-speaking Catholics in Miami and around the world to tap into spiritual inspiration wherever they are.

The station recently launched a new mobile app, adding additional meaning to the radio station’s tagline “Siempre contigo,” in English, “always with you.”

The application can be downloaded for free from Apple’s App Store, and works on Apple and Android platforms for both tablets and smartphones. Listeners can access a livestream of the station broadcast as well as Spanish-language podcasts such as the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church and the document of Aparecida. There is also a YouTube tab with videos produced by the archdiocese or that might be of interest to the Catholic community.

Other religious organizations in the Miami area are also using social media and the internet to reach out to believers who are looking for a spiritual connection that fits into their schedule. For example, the bible app called YouVersion connects to several local churches, including First Baptist Church of Westwood Lake, the Chinese Christian Church in Miami, and the University Baptist Church (better known as UBC). Worshippers at these churches can use the YouVersion app to follow along with scripture readings, take notes on live sermons, send a prayer request or make a donation.

Even religious organizations that don’t have specific apps often have podcasts that can be downloaded to access on the go or websites that have a mobile-compatible format. Temple Israel, the Reform Jewish synagogue in downtown Miami, broadcasts their Friday night Shabbat service on the radio at 880-AM and streams the video live on their website.

With the Radio Paz app, the Catholic Church is also trying to target a younger audience.

“We have to go where the people are,” Jordan said.

Anthony Bonta, director of the Campus Ministry at Barry University, said he is excited about both developments for the Catholic community.

“Throughout history we [asked] how do we always transmit those wonderful traditions of truth to a new generation,” Bonta said. “It’s wise to use mediums that can help do that.”