BY ZITA TAITANO
JONESBORO — Parishioners at St. Mary Church and School in Paragould can now get more updates about activities and Masses via an app for their smartphones.
According to pastor Father Mike Sinkler, there are currently a little more than 100 people who signed up for the app in the short time it’s been available.
“Through the app, you can get push notifications from the parish and school office, scheduling for Masses and ministries, connection to Catholic News Service and many other ways of getting more church information,” he said.
The developer for the app is Sue Jiron of SmartDogIntegration in New Mexico. According to her website, ChurchAppLady.com, the organization is committed to bringing the Catholic Church into the digital era with latest in information technology.
Jiron also helped Father James Melnick, pastor of St. Augustine Church in Dardanelle and St. Andrew Church in Danville, with the Yell County Catholic app at the start of the year.
“She called me right before Easter and asked if we were interested and I asked the parish council and they said yes,” Father Sinkler said.
The cost was about $1,300 to set up and is maintained each month for about $75.
The pastor said the parish council viewed the app as a helpful resource in getting information out to parishioners quickly, especially if there are any cancellations of Masses or events because of severe weather conditions.
“This past winter, as you know, was not pretty,” Father Sinkler said. “We actually cancelled Mass on Sunday for the first time in my 33 years as a priest. It’s easier to push notices. What you can see on the app now is it helps people connect.”
The parish recently conducted a survey on improvements they can make for the church and school and posted it on the app, which Father Sinkler said has received a positive response.
Father Sinkler said St. Mary School is getting involved with the app and that at the start of the academic year, a school prayer was sent out on the app. He said his mission, the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Walnut Ridge, will also use the app.
Jiron said other parishes in Arkansas are looking at similar technology.
“We have a few projects under development,” she said. “We’re pretty focused on Arkansas. Father James is very dear friend and we have a special program for Arkansas. We try to make our projects very streamlined and very simple. Arkansas has a very special place in my heart.”
She said her company has been developing apps for three years. The first big project was to build an app for Albuquerque, which won a contest as best app for doing business in Albuquerque in 2013.
“What occurred after that is I received a profound and succinct calling to use my talents and ability in app development and called on by the Lord to work his house so we shifted from working with businesses and retail and totally focused on Catholic entities, and app development became a ministry for the Lord’s house,” she said.
“My mantra is that we want to make this affordable for every parish that wants to use this technology,” she said.
The St. Mary app is available on Android and Apple devices for free. Jiron can be reached at (505) 323-1732 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: Arkansas Catholic