Interactive Canonisation Webcast First Choice for Thousands

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
18 Oct 2010

Australian TV news channels had their own presenters in Rome, while ABC's News24 and Foxtel's Sky News broadcast the event live. But it was the webcast of yesterday's canonisation ceremony in Rome streamed live via social networking site,'s portal that broke new ground and offered thousands coverage like no other.

The live webcast was hosted by two well-informed and popular members of the Archdiocese of Sydney, Sister of St Joseph, Sr Giovanni Farquer and World Youth Day 2008 commentator Fr Mark Podesta, who not only gave participants an English translation of the ceremony which was conducted in Italian, but gave an insiders' view of proceedings.

In addition, as well as offering unparalleled coverage of canonisation ceremony as it unfolded but the webcast enabled those watching an opportunity to be full participants and to take part in live chat, live questions and answers as well as a non-stop twitter feed.

"For the first time ever we were able to offer a live webcast that included real interaction for those at home as well as those who had gathered together with friends," says Mary Elias, Content and Administration Manager of

The response to the live chat and the opportunity to ask questions of the Rome-based commentators in real time was an enormous success, she says and the numbers participating was way beyond expectations, with thousands worldwide joining in to post their comments, ask questions, and share their joy and excitement at Mary MacKillop's canonisation.

"This webcast is so good! Better than any of the Tv broadcasts. Thanks so much Xt3!" came from one young man. Another said: "Well done and thank you all for a wonderful webcast which has allowed all of us in other parts of the world t o participate in this great event in our history - Mary a Saint for our world and our time."

The live chat that was possible via the webcast came from as far afield as Canada, Indonesia, Ireland, New Zealand and Italy where one excited participant wrote: "this webcast is even better than the Italian one, thank u! And now Aussie has a Saint, I hope the first of a huge number..."

And among the questions Sr Giovanni and Fr Mark were able to answer live during the webcast covered everything from "what makes a miracle" to "why does it take so long to become a saint?"

But for thousands of others in Penola and Sydney who chose to watch the webcast as it was streamed onto giant screens at a series of outdoor venues, what was important wasn't so much the chance to interact with what was happening on screen, but rather to marvel and rejoice at the canonisation of one of the nation's most beloved, revered and most remarkable women.

Joining families, friends and neighbours, they gathered to celebrate the canonisation of Mary MacKillop and to watch events as they unfolded on large screens set up at venues in Penola, SA and in Sydney at Mary MacKillop Place and in the forecourt of St Mary's Cathedral.

In Penola, SA where Mary MacKillop founded her first school with Fr Tenison Woods, and where she and Fr Tenison Woods also founded the Congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, the town of 1500 pulled out all the stops. Visited throughout the day by an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 pilgrims, more than 6000 stayed on for the evening's outdoor Mass at Mary MacKillop Park which was followed by the live webcast from Rome.

At the North Sydney Mother House of the Sisters of St Joseph, where Mary MacKillop spent the final years of her life and where she is buried, thousands spent day paying homage to Australia's first Saint. Then in the evening, Mary McKillop Place reached maximum capacity when 3000 pilgrims poured through doors for the free-but-by-ticket-only Mass, and to watch the live webcast on a mega screen especially  set up for the event.

In the city, another 3000 attended the 5 pm Feast Day of Mary MacKillop Mass inside St Mary's Cathedral, after which they joined more than 4000 other families, friends and individuals in the Cathedral's forecourt to watch the webcast on specially erected outdoor screen and to hear Pope Benedict XVI declare Mary MacKillop a saint.

For many of those who watched the webcast from St Mary's forecourt, the atmosphere was one of a party with groups waving the Aussie flag and spontaneously singing "Advance Australia Fair" in between hailing Mary as one of their own. Most had spent the entire day at the Cathedral, joining in the Knights of the Southern Cross' Festival of Faith which took place from noon until 4.30 pm. The Festival not only offered Pavillions of Faith but provided food stalls, a sausage sizzle, live music from a stage erected at one end, and plenty of fun for the kids including carnival rides and a sausage sizzle.

In addition to these large-scale events, parishes also held their own gatherings watching the webcast via Xt3 on screens they rigged in their local church halls. Some had as many 200 or more watching as the events unfolded.