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Holy Broadcasting from Ireland
and Northern Ireland

by Jim Solatie

European DX listeners have recently discovered a wonderful new target. On 27 MHz it is possible to receive Catholic mass celebrations from Ireland and Northern Ireland. Hundreds of local churches around the island are broadcasting holy masses live. If you tune in between 27,000 and 28,000 kHz, you might be able to hear many interesting churches. The transmitter power is usually only 3 watts, so a strong F2 opening is needed. Luckily with the current solar maximum this happens quite often.

How did all this start? This is a fascinating story, told by a Father, who has been helping the idea to become reality.

The broadcasting of Masses was introduced in a rural Irish diocese over 30 years ago when the resident priest was considering a way of reaching out to those who were housebound in his parish. They had access to religious broadcasts on National Radio and TV, but he knew that it was no comparison to a local broadcast. There were many incidents of families coming home from Mass on Sunday and their housebound parent or grandparent had 'all the news' (they were aware of all the happenings in the parish) when they arrived home.

Nowadays it is not unusual for parishes to have webcams in their churches. Some are permanent installations, but on occasions temporary arrangements have been made so family members who are abroad and unable to attend funerals or weddings can be involved. 30 years ago family members who were housebound in his rural parish were afforded a 'virtual presence' at parish occasions that they would like to have attended but were unable to be present.

On New Year's eve, 1984 he drove from house to house recording greetings from men and women who lived alone. They recalled stories of New Year's eve traditions from past years, but more importantly they passed on greetings to others in their neighbourhood who would be likewise housebound for New Years.

We went back home, connected the tape recorder to the CB transmitter, and broadcast his hour long programme of stories and greetings. You can imagine how special that was to those who would otherwise have spent New Year's night alone and isolated.

This priest also broadcast events from his local Parish Hall. Grandparents could listen live to their children and grandchildren performing in concerts and theatrical productions.

Through time colleagues heard about his success with CB Mass broadcasts and they investigated how they might install similar CB radios in their churches. The news spread wider and eventually the project went nationwide.

How can I hear them?

Here in Finland F2 propagation on 27 MHz is possible between October and March. Best moments are from midday to early afternoon local time (10-13 UTC). By following the propagation map it is quite easy to forecast if the reception might be possible.

Of course you need a receiver, which has the 27 MHz band. Perseus is one of the best choices. Equally important is a good antenna. With 1,000-meter longwire antennas (designed for medium wave) we are not able to hear anything on this band. A 27 MHz yagi antenna is the optimal choice, but a good dipole or even a shorter longwire will work.

More information

If you find the idea of receiving mass broadcasts interesting, you will enjoy Harri Kujala's fascinating web page.

Published on January 7, 2015

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