Snapshot in an app

19 May 2017

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THE age of printed diocesan hand­books’ providing an annual snap­shot of the clergy and parishes in a diocese has long since gone; but the dioceses have been slow to develop digital equivalents. There was an attempt, a few years ago, to produce C of E diocesan apps through Chapel Studio’s My C of E app, but this did not last long.

The RC diocese of Portsmouth has become the first diocese to launch a fully stand-alone diocesan app, PRCD-UK: a digital equivalent of the diocesan handbook.

The core of the app is a directory of parishes in a straightforward alpha­betical list, and a search fac­il­ity. As you type, the app ex­­cludes those parishes that cannot be in­­cluded within the search string; so a search for Havant, for example, requires you to type in only “Hav” before the two Havant parishes appear at the top of the list.

Clicking on a parish provides you with its address and contact details, a map, mass times, details of other services, and the name of the priest. The app also has a map which shows all the churches in the diocese.

The app is more than just a directory: a number of RC news sites are embedded, including the Catholic Herald, the Eternal Word Television Network, and a couple of blogs. Unfortunately, when testing for this review, the apps event-guide was empty.

PRCD-UK also contains guides to church life in the diocese, including safeguarding. In addition to contact details for the diocesan safeguarding office, and information about what to do if abuse is suspected, the app also provides background information about the diocese’s safeguard­ing pro­­cesses, and explains the procedures that need to be followed before anybody can begin to work with children in the diocese’s churches.

In the Catholic Life section of the app, information is given on the eucharist, reconciliation (confession), the rosary, and prayer and worship.

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The reconciliation section con­­tains an embedded video from a young woman, Maria Byrne. “Have you ever had that experience where you have messed up, you have hurt someone and as a response they haven’t show you anger, they have shown you mercy?” she asks.

“That is true love as mercy. That is how God acts towards us. In the midst of our suffering, our sin, things we get wrong, his response is mercy, and that is shown so greatly and so amazingly in the sacrament of confession.”

The app also contains textual background to the sacrament; al­­though the section on the confi­den­ti­ality of the seal of the con­­fession over-eggs the assurance of privacy when it says: “The priest has special training to hear your confession; and under the ‘seal of confession’ will not reveal your sins to any other person no matter how grave they are, under pain of excommunication or even death.”

The app PRCD-UK is free to download for both iOS and Android. The RC diocese of Ports­mouth has shown what can be done; it is time now for Anglican dioceses to show that they can follow suit.

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