MILWAUKEE – When Thomas Laabs left the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist at 4 a.m. Christmas Day, by then the hundreds of feet of cable, three cameras, and personnel used to produce and telecast Midnight Mass were gone. What was yet to arrive was the feedback from viewers who had watched the first Midnight Mass telecast from the cathedral in 18 years.Three cameras were used in telecasting the Midnight Mass from the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Dec. 25. Left, an unidentified camera operator frames a shot of the musicians and choir.

“We received a lot of positive comments,” said Laabs, the parish’s director of administration and development. “It wasn’t the number of people who thanked us, but what they wrote: ‘Thank you for putting this on TV. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have had Christmas Mass.’”

A ratings comparison provided by Channel 12 verified what the cathedral heard from viewers.

The station reported 16,344 homes were tuned in at midnight, representing a viewing audience of more than 39,700 people. Beginning at 11:30 p.m., Channel 4 aired Pope Francis’ Christmas Eve Mass, taped earlier, from St. Peter’s Basilica. The numbers provided by Channel 12 showed that Mass was watched in more than 12,700 homes, representing an audience of nearly 31,000 viewers.

Laabs estimated attendance at the cathedral Mass, with Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki as principal celebrant, to be slightly more than 600.

“We had a full church at midnight – more than we had last year,” he said, noting that cathedral staff set up 45Producer Raul Galvan, left, from Milwaukee Public Television oversees production of the live telecast of Midnight Mass from the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Dec. 25. At the console are engineer Matt Abstetar and director Trevor Powers, foreground, both from Clearwing Productions. The cathedral sacristy served as the control room for the production. It was the first time since 1995 that Midnight Mass from the cathedral had been televised. (Submitted photos courtesy Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist) additional chairs than would be needed for a “typical Mass.”

Of the choirs, musicians, celebrants and all involved in the liturgy, Laabs said, “Everybody stepped it up a notch.”

While “very, very pleased” with the telecast, he and the cathedral staff will look at the tape of the Mass and determine where improvements might be made.

“’How can we make this better?’ is what we will ask,” Laabs said.

With nearly a year to plan, he said the approach to the next Midnight Mass will be different given the cathedral invested $10,000 in this year’s production, while corporate sponsors covered the remaining $10,000. Channel 12 did not charge for the 90 minutes during which the Mass aired.

“We go into it with hope and expectations that we’ll do it again,” he said. “But we don’t know if we can underwrite it; we’ll try to get sponsors in line earlier.”