SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - WTOC’s extensive coverage of St. Patrick’s Day in Savannah will once again begin inside the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist with the St. Patrick’s Day Mass.
There are only two places to see the most reverent walk of St. Patrick’s Day morning in Savannah: at the Cathederal, and on WTOC.
“It’s an hour to give witness to our faith, to explain what St. Patrick’s Day is really about. We’re honoring a Saint.”
For the 25th consecutive year, WTOC will start our coverage by broadcasting the 8 a.m. mass from the Cathedral - the event that places spirituality before celebration. It has become a steadfast tradition, but was born out of a changing reputation.
“It got pretty rowdy, especially down on Bay Street and it was like a crowd of them; young people, real young, drunk.”
Tommy Brunson was vice chairman of the parade committee in 1994, when the folks who run Savannah’s single biggest event were becoming increasingly concerned about how the increasingly raucous atmosphere was reflecting on the city. So, they approached WTOC with the hope that taking viewers inside the mass would help take back control of the day’s image.
“It was our attempt to let people know this was not just a hoopla parade, it’s about St. Patrick, who brought Christianity to pagan Ireland, converted all of our ancestors to Christianity.”
"I think it was a wonderful move because they do appear to be two separate events; what happens in the Cathedral and what happens on Abercorn Street.
Father Jerry McCarthy has helped host St. Patrick’s Day mass on WTOC almost every year since 1994, guiding viewers through the ceremony with a sure hand, a comforting voice, and a sense of discretion.
“In reality, the mass and the liturgy don’t require a lot of commentary - from the setting of the Cathedral with the celebrating bishops and priests, it speaks for itself.”
For 25 years, televising the mass has spoken of the importance for faith alongside all the fun of St. Patrick’s Day in Savannah.
“We have the mass so that when they say, ‘well all the rowdiness and all the drinking,’ we say, ‘yeah, and all the mass before it takes place.’ That’s us, that’s the parade committee.”
Many of those who come to the parade for St. Patrick’s Day probably are more interested in River Street or the parade, but if they want to watch the mass and what the day is really about, tune in to WTOC.
The impact of WTOC carrying the mass can now be seen year-round. That telecast led directly to the Diocese of Savannah deciding to live stream 10 a.m. mass from the Cathedral every Sunday. Tim Williams and WTOC’s Craig Harney send the ceremony out to an international audience every Sunday, and also live stream several special events from the Cathedral. The webcast allows those unable to attend mass to share the experience, and has further raised the profile of our city’s most famous church.
“For the Diocese, we cover 90 counties in South Georgia, but the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is the seat of the Diocese,” said Tim Williams, Diocese of Savannah Videographer. “So, for things like priestly ordinations, crism mass, large funerals, the Cathedral is our spiritual home. To be able to live stream events from the Cathedral masses and special liturgies is indispensable for us.”
Tim Williams is a WTOC alumnus, and he’ll be helping out with our broadcast of St. Patrick’s Day Mass again this year.