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Local story: Mass For You At Home TV series

Feb 23, 2024

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Did you know Australia's longest running commercial television show Mass For You At Home is filmed right here in Fairy Meadow? The television show, which started in 1971, was moved from Melbourne to Wollongong when the Catholic Diocese of Wollongong won the tender in 2021.

The 54-year-old show is filmed at the St John Vianney Co-Cathedral in Fairy Meadow four times a year over the span of a week.

However, this year the show nearly didn’t go ahead. Executive producer/director Daniel Hopper shares why...

Why did Mass For You At Home start?

It was done out of Melbourne for 30 years prior to us. My understanding is they would film it at the Docklands Channel 10 Studio. They would film the entire year in January because, with the cadets and all the trainees, Channel 10 would use that as their training base for all their crew. They would shoot it all in three and a half weeks for the entire year.

The whole purpose of it is for those that can't get to Mass - and this is way before the internet. The main audience has always been those in prison, in nursing homes and in aged care facilities - those that can't be in their parishes and can't get to church.

It wasn't to replace the Mass... it was for those that couldn't be there, giving them some spiritual solace. It’s been going for 54 years now.

How did the Catholic Diocese of Wollongong come to produce it?

In about 2020, the crew responsible for the production handed it over to the Australian Catholic Bishop’s Conference, which is the ACBC - the peak body for all dioceses. That's when COVID hit. We started doing our Bishops Masses online.

So when COVID hit, we couldn't go to church - we weren't allowed to during the lockdowns - so we started filming our Bishops Masses online and putting them up.

We were one of the few that did pre-records instead of livestreaming it. We could do a three-camera shoot, and we could do it properly at the co-cathedral in Fairy Meadow, which is a nice church. We would do that each week. We would usually just shoot two a fortnight.

Then when Melbourne said they couldn't do Mass For You At Home anymore, and they were only going to do it up until the beginning of Easter 2021.

They'd seen what we'd done with the Bishops Masses and they said, "Would you consider taking this on or tendering for it?” I said, "Well, personally, it would be awesome. I can get the gang back and we get to do this, but it's a lot of work to do on top of your already full-time job”. I hadn't done broadcast TV before.

It was another situation with God, saying, ‘Well, if you open this door, I'll walk through it and we'll see where it leads’. We won the tender and then we started. Our first one was on Easter Sunday 2021.

How regularly do you film the episodes?

We used to shoot five times a year, whereas now we do it four times a year. It takes a week for each of those.

The whole thing was that if it truly is a national ministry entity, it shows around the entire country – in every regional station in Australia and every capital city. So I wanted to make sure that it's representative of that (by having priests flown from around the country).

Is there a reason for the St John Vianney Co-Cathedral in Fairy Meadow?

There’s a couple of things with that church – it’s aesthetically pleasing, which is why I chose that church. There's a tabernacle in the centre - so there's always a centre point of Jesus in the tabernacle. So every angle you're shooting from, you've always got that as a reference point in the background.

So when you're shooting between three different cameras and you're editing, there's always a crossover and you're always in that same space. And then theologically, having Christ in the centre is always good.

We bring our own lights in, but it has a lot of ambient light... so we can actually use the natural light. The carpet on the floor is better for sound. And the light-coloured background - a lot of churches there are a lot of dark woods and I didn't want that to be the face of what the church is. We want it to be welcoming.

It doesn't feel closed in. It feels nice. It's welcoming. And it's reflective of what we're trying to do and what the mass is supposed to be. So the choice of that church is quite intentional.

I's part of the Cathedral Parish. You’ve got this, for instance, we have the Xavier Cathedral here (St Francis Xavier Cathedral in Wollongong), and that's a co-cathedral. That's very rare. There are not many co-cathedrals in Australia.

Fairy Meadow is bigger. For larger events, they couldn't fit everyone in there (Xaviers), so they use that one. But it means also that it's not used all the time. If you want to book it out for a week, it's easier to do with minimal disruption to them. There's many of those days where we can do a Hollywood wrap, which means just leaving it as is, walk out, walk back in the next morning.

Do you receive much feedback from viewers?

Our whole funding model is on fundraising. It's not cheap to do this. We do the production on the smell of an oily rag. We rely on people... donating to us.

We get a lot of feedback from letters, phone calls, comments on our socials and on YouTube. The bishop then gets a lot of letters, and he gets a lot of letters from prisoners.

I get emails all the time from children saying their parents had just passed away, but they'd watched the show every single day. It was their comfort, their solace, and their last thing to do before they died.

For the first years - 2021 and ‘22 - we went over our fundraising target. It was like, this is brilliant. I thought, how good are we? Then last year, with the interest rate, with the cost of living... we were behind by about $100,000 at the end of last year.

Then come early December, we got a letter out of the blue - someone giving us $96,000 in their will. That meant we could do it again.


The Catholic Diocese of Wollongong will now continue until its contract runs out at the end of the year, with no plans yet set for the show’s future.

Mass For You At Home airs on Sunday at 6am on Channel 10 and Foxtel, and and is repeated five times daily and repeated episodes on Ten Play.


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