Newman Catholic Student Center keeps a Hawk-eye on technology

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Student Anna Kelly leads the rosary during a livestreamed rosary and Mass at Newman Catholic Student Center at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

IOWA CITY — Thanks to the generosity of supporters, Newman Catholic Student Center at the University of Iowa will receive audio/visual upgrades this fall.

These upgrades will help Newman Center enhance the quality of livestreams and other virtual offerings. “There is a lot going on here and it is so exciting to be able to connect no matter what the situation,” said Father Jeffry Belger, priest director of the Newman Center.

As with other Catholic entities, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted Newman Center to consider technology as a means of connecting with others remotely. Father Belger said Newman Center uses its “good, but inconsistent” audio/visual system to livestream Masses, prayer services, weddings, funerals, speakers and more. Generally, recordings are uploaded to YouTube.

Kelsie Tingle, who served as Newman Center’s faith formation special events fellow during the 2020-21 school year, said the pandemic brought to light the “many ways in which we can utilize technology moving forward to help people feel more connected to each other.” Living locally is no longer a prerequisite for participation. For this reason, Father Belger believes that remote options remain essential, even after the pandemic ends. “I think livestreaming is here to stay.”

Acknowledging the ongoing importance of technology, Newman Center selected technology upgrades as its “Fund-a-Cause” for the spring gala. Newman Center staff encouraged its supporters to contribute to the $25,000 goal.

In a promotional video, Development Director April Rouner shared that her niece, Nicki Raitt, a University of Iowa alumnus and Newman Center volunteer, lost her nine-year battle with cancer in November 2020. “Because of COVID, only our immediate family was able to attend her beautiful funeral service” at Newman Center. Because of livestream technology, “family and friends, both local and far away, were able to attend Nicki’s funeral. They weren’t physically seated in the chapel, but they were here… our wish is for other families to have the same opportunity in the future to honor their loved ones in the best way possible.”

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Supporters responded, helping Newman Center reach its $25,000 goal for the new audio/visual system. Upgrades will include three high-definition cameras in the chapel and gathering space, a dedicated control system, and replacement of 39 existing speakers in the chapel and overflow spaces. The technology wiring will be encased and off the walls and floor.

Rhonda Lipsius, Newman Center’s administrative assistant, said she and Father Belger are meeting with contractors who should be ready to install the upgrades soon.

Father Belger said he looks forward to offering viewers “quality sound and video to make you feel like you are here.”


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