by MICHAEL OTTO
What could well be the first smartphone or tablet parish “app” in New Zealand has been developed for St Thomas Aquinas parish in Tauranga.

Tauranga parish youth worker Anna-Marie Barrett with the parish app open on her mobile.
Tauranga parish youth worker Anna-Marie Barrett with the
parish app open on her mobile.

Parish administrative officer Margie Cooper was one of the driving forces behind developing the app, which she
describes as “a quick and easy reference point to inform, promote, and improve parish communications with our parishioners”.
Parish priest Fr Mark Field was 100 per cent behind the project from day one, Mrs Cooper said.
Among the free app’s features are a notification system, which can remind people about events and important Church
messages.
There is also a calender, through which information can also be provided about activities in the wider parish, such as youth, eucharistic adoration, and the different communities in the parish.
Other features include a notices tab through which people can read the parish newsletter, a timetable function listing Mass and Reconciliation times — which can be easily updated when required — plus a contacts directory for parish staff.
Using a links tab, people can access the parish website and Facebook page, as well as two schools, Hamilton diocese, the New Zealand bishops’ conference and the Vatican.
Users can also get alerts when new content is loaded on the app.
Mrs Cooper said the parish feels an “app” approach is the “best way to reach our members as these days most people
have their phones close by at all times”.
“All the … functionality means our members are kept up to date with all the happenings at the church at all times,” she said.
The free app, developed by Snapp Mobile in less than three weeks, has been very well received by parishioners.
“Fr [Mark] Field and the parish office have received a number of emails and phone calls congratulating the parish
on this initiative,” Mrs Cooper said.
Loading content onto the app is done easily by the parish office or the parish priest using a web-based dashboard
and this can be done from “our phones, tablets or desktop computers”.
Snapp has been developing communications apps for schools for three years, and see an opportunity to use a similar
approach for churches.
Mrs Cooper said the initial cost of setting up an app may vary from parish to parish depending on the number of
parishioners, plus a monthly hosting cost.
She said the Tauranga “app” was very affordable for the parish, with an upfront development cost plus a monthly
maintenance fee.
The maintenance fee scales with the number of members in a church.
Mrs Cooper said a referral process has been established with Snapp Mobile.
“If reference is made to St Thomas Aquinas as the referral point, your parish will receive a $100 credit towards hosting the app,” she said.
People can download the app by searching either St Thomas Aquinas or Tauranga Moana in the app store or Google Play store.
The app can be used on iPhone and Android devices.

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