VERBOORT — How many times a day do you check for texts or swipe to see a social media post? How many times do you flip open the Bible or pray?
Visitation School here has created a tech-savvy way to bring the word of God into your everyday life via a daily companion — your smartphone. In the process, students are helping raise funds for a new school facility.
The Daily Visitation app, downloadable through iTunes and the Google Play Store for iPhones and Androids, features all the readings you’d hear at daily and Sunday Masses, including responsorial psalms, dictated by Visitation students in preschool through eighth grade. Teachers also contribute to the recordings.
“It’s lovely to hear the voices of the kids, and the students have been asking how to help make difference,” said Jacque Jones, Visitation kindergarten teacher.
The app costs $1.99, and about 70 percent goes to Visitation to support construction of a school building and much-needed upgrades.
A capital campaign was launched in February 2016, with $6.9 million needed. Phase 1 will cost $4.5 million and fund the new school; for years, modular buildings have housed multiple classes. Thus far $3.9 million has been pledged, “so we are very close to being able to complete the first phase,” said Carol Funk, principal of the 134-year-old institution. She said they hope to break ground next spring. Phase 2 will include completion of a new gym, music room and kitchen.
Funk said the app not only allows students to be hands-on contributors to the fundraising effort, but it also infuses the project with prayer.
Daily Visitation includes videos and photos of students — some show the app-making in action — and artwork they’ve created. It also provides standard, but not always memorized, Catholic prayers, such as the Glory Be and Apostles Creed.
The recordings give students a chance to plunge into a variety of biblical stories and learn about pronunciations and dictation in the process.
“Some of the readings were really hard work,” acknowledged Jones. “There were times I’d pause and think, ‘How do I say this name or location?’”
Jones used the opportunity to tell students that they can tackle difficult projects.
The app was months in the making and began last summer. Eugenia Wessels, whose children graduated from Visitation, has spearheaded production.
Funk said Wessels navigated the “long process to get through the iTunes requirements of paperwork for nonprofits … and create sound quality that was at a certain level.”
“There was trial and error,” said Funk, but “it was well worth it.”
Wessels visits the school two to three times a week to record Scripture readings by different grades and then processes the audio with photos and video. The readings are added to the app one month at a time. Before summer vacation, Wessels hopes to have recordings through November finished. The readings will run from Easter 2017 to Easter 2018.
Funk said the app has been a hit. “The feedback from many has been that it’s sweet and prayerful to hear the voices of children in prayer.”
Laura Nevis, parent to three Visitation students, said she’d love to attend daily Mass, but that’s not always possible. The app is a great way to hear the word of God on the go.
And her kids have had a blast making the app, she said. “They appreciate being able to help and love that it can be bought worldwide.” The app has been downloaded from as far away as Canada and Israel.
“Our school community … is proud to be Catholic and proud to learn about Our Lord, and we have loved working together on this project,” said Jones. “It has come together beautifully.”