With training at Incarnation Church in Glendale conducted in January, there are now 21 video conference sites throughout the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Funded by an educational grant, the systems — consisting of a video conference unit with a large screen, DVD/VCR that can be used independently or in conjunction with a video conference, and a projector — are spread from Santa Maria to Long Beach, from Culver City to Hacienda Heights.

With a video conference, archdiocesan employees and parishioners have been able to gather together at numerous sites simultaneously to conduct meetings, attend classes, and interact with nationally-recognized speakers. Participants at all sites can see and be seen by, as well as hear and be heard by, all other participants. There is also the ability to share computer presentations in the context of the video conference, whose sites can be as close as the parish hall, not hours of driving away. 

Currently, 18 of 20 deaneries have a video conference site. The sites were chosen based on the availability of adequate facilities, and only with the approval of the pastor or principal.

Since the project began in 2007, there have been presentations on Scripture, real estate, insurance, parish fundraisers, implementation of the Synod, the new Roman Missal, and many other topics. The Office of the Chancellor uses the video conference system to broadcast its monthly “Top Ten Administrative Issues” presentations, in which members of the Archdiocesan Catholic Center assist parishes and schools in issues related to leases, construction projects, sacramental recordkeeping, parish and school festivals, and completion of financial and statistical reports.

Many video conferences are recorded, and available for free online viewing to any interested person.

Parish officials at sites with stewardship of the equipment --- happy not to have to travel far to participate in these events --- envision much more use in the future. 

“The key to this whole system is potential,” according to Noel Fuentes, Pastoral Associate at St. Raphael Church, Goleta. “The possibilities are limited only to our imaginations. Our equipment has saved us hundreds of hours of sitting in traffic, and has been a source of education and enrichment for our parish and school staff and our parish community. I hope in the future we are able to do more inter-site sharing.”

Susan Reyes of St. Louise de Marillac, Covina, concurs. “Being able to use the system not only for the archdiocesan video conferences but for business managers’ meetings and principals’ meetings is what we have liked the best,” she said. “We have also been able to use it for presentations to the finance councils here at the parish and to some other groups.”

Sister of Notre Dame Teresita Kelleher, Pastoral Associate and RCIA director at St. Philip the Apostle, Pasadena, appreciates using the video conference system for monthly formation meetings with other Pastoral Associates. 

“It has been so beneficial to be the host for the video conferencing,” she stated. “The Parish Life Directors and Pastoral Associates have learned to use it. We even did the Christmas retreat via video conference. We haven't had any negative feedback and the system has worked very well for us.”

One of the biggest cheerleaders of the system has been Josephite Father Charles Hofschulte, pastor of St. Louis de Montfort Church, Santa Maria, and dean of Deanery 1, the northernmost of the archdiocese’s 20 deaneries. “We do not have to drive from Santa Maria to Los Angeles — six hours roundtrip for programs that last maybe an hour and a half!”

Father Hofschulte strongly endorsed videoconferencing from the archdiocese and the possibility for its future use with schools as well. “What a marvelous way to educate our children,” he said, “by hooking up to a variety of programs that may enhance what is going on in the classroom.” 

Listed by region, the video conference sites (primarily parishes) are:

---Santa Barbara: St. Louis de Montfort, Santa Maria (Deanery 1); St. Raphael, Goleta, and the Santa Barbara Regional Office (Deanery 2); Our Lady of the Assumption, Ventura (Deanery 3); St. John’s Seminary, Camarillo, and St. Paschal Baylon, Thousand Oaks (Deanery 4).

---San Fernando: Our Lady of Lourdes, Northridge (Deanery 5); Incarnation, Glendale (Deanery 6); the San Fernando Regional Office, Mission Hills (Deanery 7); St. Mary, Palmdale (Deanery 8).

---San Gabriel: Bishop Mora Salesian High School, East Los Angeles (Deanery 9); St. Philip the Apostle, Pasadena (Deanery 10); St. Louise de Marillac, Covina (Deanery 11); St. John Vianney, Hacienda Heights (Deanery 12; not currently used in parish hall due to church fire in April 2011).

---Our Lady of the Angels: St. Paul the Apostle, Westwood, and the Our Lady of the Angels Regional Office, Culver City (Deanery 13); Archdiocesan Catholic Center, L.A. (Deanery 14); Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, L.A. (Deanery 15); St. Frances X. Cabrini, South Los Angeles (Deanery 16). 

---San Pedro Region: St. Bernard, Bellflower (Deanery 17); St. Anthony, Long Beach (Deanery 20).

For more information about the video conference project, or to suggest topics for use, please contact Eileen E. O’Brien in the Operations Department of the Archdiocesan Catholic Center: (213) 637-7618 or EEOBrien @ la-archdiocese.org.