Need to Find a Mass? There’s an App for That

Technology continues to help the faithful meet their obligations, near to or far from home.

The ‘Catholic Mass Times’ app informs users about Masses nearby, including St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.
The ‘Catholic Mass Times’ app informs users about Masses nearby, including St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. (photo: ‘Catholic Mass Times’ app/Unsplash)

Traveling for work or pleasure, not wanting to miss Mass, Mike Pacer grabs his phone. Within seconds, he can see the Mass times at churches near him. That’s because, as the saying goes, there’s an app for that. He is a faithful user of the “Catholic Mass Times” app.

“I could use Google maps, find a parish website, look at the parish bulletin and maybe after five clicks I’ve found the Mass times,” says Pacer, who lives near Chicago. “But the app is so much easier. It shows all the Masses near you — and adorations and confessions, too. So it lets me find the kind of church I like, too.”

Launched a decade ago, the “Catholic Mass Times” app has grown gradually and now has tallied more than 1.5 million downloads. Available in nine languages, it lists more than 85,000 churches in 202 nations. 

The app is particularly popular in the United States, with 200,000 downloads. It lists 19,233 U.S. churches—“all of them,” says its creator Pablo Licheri, an Argentinean now living and working in Florida.

In the last five years, the app has been opened 15 million times. “Just to have one person go to Mass is so important. We’ve helped millions get closer to God and their faith,” says Licheri.

Easy to use, the app allows searches by location, time, language or type of Mass. The data is accurate because it relies on “crowdsourcing,” according to Licheri. Users confirm and update Mass times. Each month this app receives 5,000 updates, and most patrons receive an acknowledgement within a few hours, solidifying their bond and loyalty. Licheri once relied on contacting dioceses and parishes, but that proved to be cumbersome and unreliable.

The app displays how recently the Mass information was updated. “I really like that. You get a good idea of its reliability,” says María Verónica Degwitz of Parkland, Florida. A “soccer mom” with five children, Degwitz, 39, uses the app regularly as she travels with her family to tournaments.

“I tell the kids the first thing we have to figure out when we travel is when we will go to Mass,” she says. “That’s something I want to do as a family. If we do that, when they get older, I hope they will keep going to Mass.”

Fittingly, the origin of “Catholic Mass Times” is steeped in faith and service. A software expert at a bank in Argentina in 2014, Licheri attended a retreat. “The priest talked about the importance of Mass. It’s the most important thing we do,” says Licheri, the father of seven, one of whom is now a seminarian. “I decided I wanted to connect my skills to my faith.”

His first idea was to livestream Mass. But a friend dissuaded him, convincing him that was too complicated. So, with the help of his wife and children, whom he taught basic programming skills, he created an app with Mass times in Argentina and then other Latin American nations. He eventually recruited other volunteers, paid for various expenses out of his own pocket and also dug into his personal funds to pay for a small crew of part-time workers.

Adding the U.S. churches proved to be relatively easy. “In Latin America, some parishes and even dioceses didn’t have websites. The Mass times change a lot,” he says.

The app is skewed toward the United States, some Latin America nations and other nations that are often visited. More than 100 churches are listed in 42 countries, while the other nations feature fewer churches. Italy has 8,967 churches listed; France has 4,101.

Remarkably, his app dramatically changed his own life six years ago. In Florida with his wife to give a lecture, the two searched for a Mass while driving from Miami to Naples. “We found this church in Ave Maria. We fell in love with the community. It’s a great place to raise a Catholic family,” says Licheri, now a data analytics professor at Ave Maria University.

The app has been gradually upgraded through the years. More improvements are planned: a better search function, a more attractive design, the option of marking favorite churches, and new content.

Licheri accepts donations. Fewer than 1% of users make a donation, and most contributions are modest.

But the positive feedback he has received shows its worth. “I hear this a lot: ‘So many churches. It shocked me,’” recounts Licheri. “The Catholic Church is everywhere. No matter where you are, you can go to Mass. You hear a lot of negativity about religion, and that faith is dying. People find it very refreshing to see so many Catholic churches.”

Licheri’s online Mass resource is hardly the only one. The Diocese of Lansing in Michigan owns an online site also called “Mass Times.” Its app is called “Mass Times for Travel” (Licheri’s is “Catholic Mass Times”). Lansing’s database counts 116,649 churches in 212 nations. It includes 20,232 U.S. churches, shrines, hospitals, military bases and more. 

The diocese’s online site/app had 6.6 million visitors in 2023, up from 5.4 million in 2022. The service is operated by Faith Catholic, a magazine publisher for the diocese. The Mass data is maintained by employees, volunteers and input from parishes, says Peter Wagner, managing trustee of Mass Times Trust.

Lansing’s online service began in the 1990s as a phone line: 1-800-Mass-Times. Created by Robert Hummel and supported by his Perpetual Help Foundation, it received more than 100,000 calls in 1999, but its internet page that year got 120,000 hits. Hummel turned over the ownership of the website to the diocese in 2011.

The website for the U.S. Catholic bishops also lists Mass times for churches nationwide. Their data comes from “Mass Times” in Lansing, says Wagner.

No matter what database they access, users know that a church is most likely not far from any destination or any place in between. “My wife [Lori] was driving from Chicago to Springfield,” says Pacer, a Catholic author, speaker and parish evangelization leader. “It didn’t work out for Mass in either city, but she could hop off the highway halfway and there was a church with a Mass.”

Where there’s a will, there’s a way there. “Going to Mass is the most important thing you can do,” he adds. “It’s a question of priorities. What’s more valuable than spending an hour with the Lord?”