There may not be any butter lambs, kielbasa or horseradish involved, but the nation will see a Buffalo flavor in a televised Easter Mass this month. Daybreak TV Productions taped an Easter Mass, celebrated by Bishop Richard J. Malone at St. Joseph Cathedral in Buffalo on March 8, set to air nationally on ABC affiliate stations on April 20.
The one-hour program will air locally on WKBW-TV that day at 11 a.m.
"It was lovely," Claire Rung, executive producer of Daybreak, said of the taped Mass. "It will present the diocese of Buffalo in a very beautiful and spiritual way. The diversity in the congregation was awesome. Every ethnic race was represented. It was a very good cross-section of Buffalo and our diocese."
This is the second holy day Mass Daybreak has produced for national distribution. They recorded a Christmas Mass in 2011 at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Convent Chapel at Villa Maria in Cheektowaga. Although taping the Easter Mass at the larger cathedral seems like more work, Daybreak felt at ease there because they have established much of the technical environment at St. Joseph for prior productions.
"Going into the cathedral was like going into our home because we've been there so many times," Rung said. " At the other (chapel) for the Christmas Mass, we had to figure out the whole space. We had to figure out every angle and where to put the cameras. At the cathedral, we already knew."
It made the decision of where to tape the Easter Mass easy, after ABC approached Daybreak to do another one.
"I promised Msgr. (James) Campbell (cathedral rector) that if we were to do this again, we would do it in the cathedral," Rung said. "Number one, it's the bishop's church, but the first time we did the Christmas Mass, it was suggested that we try a smaller venue. This time, that wasn't part of the request, so we went ahead and figured it made sense to use the cathedral."
With the experience of the first Christmas Mass behind them, Daybreak was able to more effectively use diocesan resources and employees to help with the Easter production this time.
"What we did learn was to ask for help from various departments in the Catholic Center that have their own very specific areas of expertise," Rung said. "Father Ryszard (Biernat, master of ceremonies) was very helpful in organizing the people and the con-celebrants. Tim Socha, (music director) at the cathedral, was fabulous. It was an effort of many people to make it happen, which we knew would happen, but we even more fine-tuned it with this Mass."
Former Buffalo leader Bishop Edward U. Kmiec was the celebrant of the 2011 Christmas Mass. This time he offered silent support, sitting in the production control room while the Easter Mass was recorded.
For the production, Daybreak records an actual Catholic Mass live-to-tape, meaning there are generally no interruptions during the service. While on occasion Daybreak must edit portions of the Mass if it goes overtime, Rung said the Easter Mass managed to keep the ceremony on schedule.
"I was amazed at how the bishop and Father Ryszard were able to keep the Mass close to an hour," she said. "It was the tightest production time we've ever had on a Mass. What that translates to is hours and days of less editing. That was because of all of the good decisions that were made along the way to keep everything orchestrated and organized tightly (and it) was Father Ryszard and the bishop who did all that."
Daybreak was happy the day of the taping, as hundreds of people filled the cathedral for the Easter Mass. Rung was also pleased with many of the elements of the Mass.
"The music was fabulous," she said. "I was very happy with it. I didn't hear a single flaw, and it was large-sounded, which we needed it to be. It was joyful."
Unable to hire a production designer to place flowers on the altar, luck was on Rung's side one day when she was purchasing lilies. A parishioner at St. Christopher Church in Tonawanda was also in line and inquired about the number of flowers Rung was buying. The conversation quickly turned to another St. Christopher parishioner - Dianne Sippel, a former flower designer from Michael's Arts and Crafts. Rung got in touch with Sippel to see if she would help.
"She handled everything," she said. "The day I called her, that afternoon she was at the cathedral, and within our budget, she was able to put together an absolutely beautiful-looking altar."