By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T
One thousand Masses and counting. On Dec. 28, the Feast of the Holy Child, early risers who tuned in WPVI Channel 6 would have seen Cardinal Justin Rigali celebrating Sunday morning Mass.
The Mass, produced by the archdiocesan Office for Communications, has been a public service tradition at Channel 6 for the past 35 years. That particular Mass was also the 1,000th in the series with Annette DiMedio as producer. At this point, she is now up to 1,005 Masses.
“This is an important Mass, especially for that community of Catholics who cannot attend Sunday Mass,” said DiMedio, a classically trained musician, who often doubles as pianist at the Mass as she did for the 1,000th.
As always it was pre-taped. They are usually recorded two at a time on Sunday afternoons at WPVI’s studio at 4100 City Line Ave in Philadelphia.
“Each Mass is unique and each Mass is special,” DiMedio said. Typically, the studio congregation will consist of anywhere from five to 25 people and music may consist of a cantor and accompanist or a full choir. The congregation could be a Knights of Columbus group, a Holy Name Society group, school children, a parish group or seminarians. The celebrant may be supplied by the group or obtained by DiMedio.
“It is important that the people have an opportunity to see Cardinal Rigali, the bishops, the different priests and the seminarians,” she said. “People like to hear different priests preach.”
Taping the Mass is a highly displined routine. Because it is a multi-purpose studio, everything – altar, candles and sacred art – must be set up before each taping session and broken down afterwards. Although the congregation and the celebrants change from week to week, the constant is DiMedio and the WPVI crew that tapes the Mass.
“They are like my television family,” DiMedio said. We have great camaraderie and some of them have become converts. It’s a great manifestation of faith.”
In her day job, DiMedio is a professor of music and a chief advisor to students at the University of the Arts School of Music in Philadelphia. She is also active in Catholic campus ministry.
The daughter of Anthony and Gloria DiMedio of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Haddonfield, N.J., her own musical training was at Swarthmore College, Temple University and Bryn Mawr College, where she received a doctorate in musicology. She is also music director at busy St. John the Evangelist Church in Center City Philadelphia. Her duties there may have her utilizing her skills at as many as three Masses on a weekend.
Thanks to her work at the University of the Arts over the years, DiMedio has been able to bring top talent to the music program at St. John’s and the weekly televised Mass.
On Good Friday, she has the University students perform a dramatic production of the Stations of the Cross involving students from the Schools of Theater, Dance and Music.
She’s traveled the world performing in various venues and competitions, and her own spiritual journey has been influenced by the wonderful people she’s encountered in her various roles. She credits her parents first, as well as the gifted mentors in her musical training.
“I have always been passionate about my work and love every venue that I have experienced through the years,” DiMedio said. “I have sensed God’s presence when sharing my gifts and I am grateful for all of the blessings I have received in return. I welcome any opportunity to serve Him.”
Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.