By Karen Meeks     4/25/2017

Parishioners now have the ability to connect more deeply with every Catholic church in Orange County, thanks to a new mobile app.

The Diocese of Orange has recently partnered with myParish app, a mobile app fusion platform developed by Diocesan & Trinity Publications, which allows parishioners to access information unique to their home parish and diocese and connect them to fellow parishioners.

The app, which is free, is available at Google Play and the App Store and accessible to anyone with a smartphone. Simply download the myParish app, open the app to search for and select a parish. (The app also provides a list of closest parishes in the search bar, a helpful tool for those new to the area or to the Catholic faith). The chosen parish will appear every time a user opens the app. If the user moves to another parish, he or she can easily change to the home parish within the app.

“We know that people celebrate their faith within their parish community and it’s really important that our parishes have the ability to leverage the latest in technology to communicate with the faithful,” says Ryan Lilyengren, director of communications for the diocese.

This isn’t the first foray into app technology for the diocese, which developed its own Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange app in 2015. That app includes information about its parishes and schools, as well as news feeds from OC Catholic, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Orange, and a prayer wall and other inspirational content.

There is also “Orange YYA,” an app released by the diocese in March 2015 that is geared toward linking young adults to ministries and events throughout the diocese, and an OC Catholic app that offers users access to podcasts from the radio station on campus, daily local and international news important to Catholics and a Rome Reports feed that provides updates on Pope Francis.

After launching and refining its apps, the diocese decided to take the mobile connection a step further with a parish-driven initiative, Lilyengren says.

The diocese looked at a lot of technology platforms to see what has been established and what worked well.

“We didn’t want to put something out there that wasn’t reliable,” Lilyengren says. “We wanted something that someone could use all the time.”

The diocese found its answer in the myParish app, a platform that has been used at a number of dioceses across the country. Orange County was among the first to take the app diocese-wide, Lilyengren says.

The diocese liked that the company created an app that allowed for daily readings and Catholic news that were easily accessible, the ability to schedule confessions and add them and mass times to their calendar, organize prayer groups and communicate directly with a pastor.

“They have this platform that’s been created through a dynamic conversation with parishes and ministry leaders all across the country,” Lilyengren says. “They looked at parish life and what thing people would need.”

Over a series of months, the diocese created 62 parish apps within the myParish app, loaded in all the standard information of each parish such as contacts, location and mass, confessional, Eucharistic adoration times, as well as diocese-wide information such as reading of the day, bulletins, resources from Catholic theologians, and Saint of the Day. The app also connects users to the radio station so people can listen to live broadcasts, as well as a feed for OC Catholic news.

After creating all the apps, the diocese went to each pastor and parish and worked with them to take ownership of the app. Each one has an administrative console at his parish where the pastor can post homilies, organize events and prayer groups and fill in other content.

Since launching in September for the 40th anniversary celebration of the Diocese of Orange, the myParish app currently has an estimated 10,000 users.

“It’s been really, really positive in that people can get all the information they need about their parish,” Lilyengren says. “They can look at their phone and know when mass is. They like that they can schedule things and see the daily readings.”

Each parish app is different, with some more fleshed out than others. Some offer opportunities to give to the Orange Catholic Foundation, while others offer audio reflections on the Holy Rosary. The app for Holy Family Catholic Church in Seal Beach, for example, features written Lenten reflections from religious scholars such as Creighton University’s Fr. Tom Shanahan and author and speaker Elise Hilton.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church in Newport Beach, one of the more app-active parishes, extensively uses the app for small ministry events and gatherings, Lilyengren says.

“It’s really powerful for organizing prayer groups and things like that,” he says. “It’s a really neat opportunity for people to get together.”