DeAnna Alvarez, 19, and Olivia Lopez, 20, show off the ASU Newman Catholic app on their smartphones. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
DeAnna Alvarez, 19, and Olivia Lopez, 20, show off the ASU Newman Catholic app on their smartphones. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

That person ahead of you in line for confession tapping away on her smartphone might not be checking Facebook. A bevy of new Catholic apps are heading to a smartphone near you with the goal of helping an increasingly connected culture grow in the faith. Plugging into the trend are some local Catholics who launched a couple free apps of their own.

Fr. Rob Clements, director of the All Saints Catholic Newman Center at Arizona State University in Tempe, has seen students consulting the “Mea Culpa” app in confession. Available on iTunes, the app guides penitents through an examination of conscience, displays prayers before confession, and categorizes and keeps track of sins.

Then there’s iBreviary, replacing the hefty leather-bound volumes of the Liturgy of the Hours. It’s a must-have, according to Fr. Clements.

Enter the “ASU Catholic Newman Center” app, which works on any smartphone or tablet and guides students with directions, Mass and confession times, a list of ministries and other essential information. There’s even a place to post prayer requests and tell a friend about the Newman Center.

The app launched the first week of the spring semester. A week later, there were more than 100 downloads and nearly 500 visits.

Carmen Portela, director of Spanish parish leadership support for the Diocese of Phoenix, is hoping a new pro-life app dubbed “Life/Vida” also will be used by the younger crowd.

“We really want the teenagers to download it because they’re the ones who are really going to use it the most,” Portela said. Teens could use the app to assist a friend or classmate facing an unexpected pregnancy. Pro-life leaders praying in front of abortion clinics will find it a great resource too, Portela said.

Life/Vida opens with a welcome screen bearing an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the unborn. Tap on the Option Line, and users are connected to nearby pregnancy resource centers. An unborn baby sucking his thumb and turning inside his mother’s womb floats above a text that explains development. “This is the beauty of creation,” Portela noted, scrolling through the images on her iPad.

The Life/Vida app, available in English and Spanish, offers web and video resources too. There are links to Natural Family Planning, Human Life International, Rachel’s Vineyard and the diocesan marriage preparation site, plus YouTube videos featuring well-known pro-life speakers. Several students at the All Saints Catholic Newman Center in Tempe reported Laudate among their Catholic app collections. It offers two versions of Scripture, Church documents and devotionals.

“We have to keep up with the technology. It used to be Facebook. Now it’s Twitter,” said Milly Venezia, marriage and development coordinator at the Newman Center, who helped set up the app. “They want information as fast as they can and they want it in the palm of their hands.”

Olivia Lopez, a sophomore at ASU, downloaded the app and quickly navigated her way through it.

“There are so many Bible studies on campus, so it’s good to have the schedule,” Lopez said.

Venezia is happy the Newman Center app can offer “push notifications” to remind Catholics about Mass times for holy days and other special events such as “Catholic Devils Week,” celebrated Feb. 7-14. Jeff Robinson, with ChurchWise Solutions, has created 100 apps in the last two years, including the one for the Newman Center. He said apps could open up lines of communication with churchgoers.

“We focus on accessibility of teaching, community building, prayer request forms, feedback and stewardship,” Robinson said.

The Newman Center will change content based on user feedback, and they are considering offering videos and podcasts.