By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T

The next time you happen to see a televised Mass, take a moment for a silent prayer for Evelyn DiMotta. In a real way she represents the many thousands of men and women who, because of age or infirmity, find it difficult to attend Mass.

DiMotta was one such person, and when she died in Vermont in May of this year, in her will she left a sum of money to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for the Mass that which is televised every Sunday morning. Actually, she left money for three different television Mass ministries, that of her own diocese of Burlington, Vt.; EWTN, which televises Mass nationwide; and the Philadelphia Mass.

Why Philadelphia? WPVI TV Channel 6, where the 5:30 a.m. Sunday Mass originates, doesn’t reach New England, nor does La Salle University TV (Comcast 56) which airs the Mass at 10 a.m.

DiMotta was born in Brooklyn and lived in several cities before her family settled in Philadelphia when she was 13, explained her cousin, Margaret Sansone, who lives in Florida. For most of her working life she was employed by General Electric, but crippling tendonitis forced her early retirement at around age 60, and that’s when she relocated to Rutland, Vt.

“She was my older cousin and my idol when I was a kid,” Sansone said. “She didn’t have a great life, and she was reclusive, but she was very giving.”

Mass meant a lot to her, her cousin said, and while she was able she would go to her local church; otherwise she watched it on television.

As is the case with far too many shut-ins, Di Motta was alone when she died and her death was discovered when neighbors missed her. The probable date of death was May 27, her 74th birthday.

The total bequest to be spanided among the three televised Masses was estimated for probate purposes at $7,000 but will probably be slightly larger when her estate settles, according to her attorney, William J. Bloomer. It shouldn’t be difficult to settle. Her pre-paid funeral consisted of an inexpensive cremation, and her will specifies she wanted no headstone on her grave. The only other bequest was for a Mass to be said at a former parish.

That estimated $7,000 dollars represents all of the worldly goods of DiMotta. Yes, Mass was indeed important to her.

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.

Generosity of viewers part of TV Mass tradition

Philadelphia’s TV Mass, which is aired as a public service by WPVI Channel 6, is an archdiocesan tradition of more than 35 years, according to Annette DiMedio, producer of the weekly TV Mass. Although it is aired Sunday morning, it is pre-taped at WPVI on City Avenue, usually on a Sunday a week or two in advance, but it uses the liturgical readings for the week it will be telecast.

The celebrant, studio congregation, singers and musicians are volunteers drawn from parishes and Catholic organizations throughout the Archdiocese.

Although it is a service provided by WPVI, there are some costs involved and it relies to a certain extent on the generosity of viewers like Evelyn DiMotta. In fact, many viewers do send in a donation, DiMedio said.

“I see generosity all the time,” she said. “Sometimes people donate in honor of other people. It shows how important it is to the viewers and gives the sense it is very needed by the shut-in community.”

DiMotta’s bequest will probably be applied against refurbishing the set for the Mass, according to Donna Farrell, director of the archdiocesan Office for Communications of which the Television Mass is part.