Before the formal presentation and photo at Clergy Connect’s recent training session in Los Angeles, Archbishop José H. Gomez was leaning over Msgr. Felix Diomartich, sitting at a table, his black walker stowed close by. Both were grinning as they chatted.

Then, patting the color-coded box with a new iPad and glancing out at The Tidings photographer with the long-lens camera, the 101-year-old priest, the former pastor of St. Anthony (Croatian) Church, feigned a serious demeanor. “At first I thought it was a regular Bible,” he said, staying with the quizzical expression awhile before laughing loudly.

That got Msgr. Richard Murray, founding pastor of St. Bernadine of Siena Parish in Woodland Hills, laughing, too. He also had an iPad on the table in front of him.

The long-retired priests, along with their brother clerics who had served or are currently working for the Los Angeles Archdiocese, were getting the electronic devices during a rollout of the new technology network this month. When he showed up at a recent information forum to order his iPhone and iPad, Msgr. Murray had quipped, “I’m 100 years old. I’ve never even had a cell phone. Well, I decided it’s time to be part of the technology age.”

Clergy Connect is part of the archdiocese’s ongoing C3 (Catholic Communication Collaboration) initiative to use and deploy the educational broadcast spectrum licenses granted by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) and leased by Sprint. The archdiocese is handing out smart phones and tablets to interconnect and offer resources with a “customized electronic forum” to all active and retired clergy serving in its five pastoral regions, which take in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

It’s providing off-the-shelf and custom software so users can safely communicate by voice, text, email and social networking, like Twitter. The goal is both pragmatic and personal — to enhance the ministry and daily lives of members of the clergy.

Besides applications for the Bible and sacramental rituals, offerings include electronic forms for marriage and canonical needs; personalized online peer discussion forums; listings for mental health, social services and other governmental resources; as well as many other apps and online services.

“I believe it will foster a renewed unity and community of clergy here in the archdiocese, so that we can collaborate and celebrate our ministries in new and joyful ways to serve the people of God,” Archbishop Gomez said in a letter about Clergy Connect to local priests.

David Moore, C3’s director of telecommunications, agrees.

“We’re working particularly emphasizing retired priests because we want to connect them, too,” he said. “Because lots of times when they retire they lose connections with their brother priests.

“It’s like The Tidings. The retired guys love The Tidings newspaper because it connects them. And here’s another way for people who probably don’t get to talk much to each other in person. Now if they learn to take a picture on their mobile device, they can send a selfie or other photos to a friend.

“Plus, they’ll have a lot of stuff to read, and with the move of a finger can make the print larger,” he added. “So I think it’ll change their world.”

To date, 640 out of some 800 priests have registered for the training and devices. And the count keeps growing, Moore reported.

“I’ve never had a computer,” confessed Msgr. Murray, who retired in 1989. “And I’ve never used one. But today you can’t do without a computer. So I’m very happy to be part of this.”