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Students develop Faith Finder App

June 20, 2013

Bishop interview with studentsFaith Finder app screen shot

Left to right: Mike Shanafelt, Matt Warfel (back), and Aaron Vizzini speak with Bishop Mark Bartchak about the app for the television show Proclaim! that aired on June 30. A screen shot of the homepage of the "Faith Finder" app. 

Day trips are popular in central Pennsylvania, especially through the summer months. Roman Catholics who are out of town can use the recently launched “Faith Finder” application (app) to conveniently find nearby services to attend. The smart phone app, developed by Saint Francis students, provides Mass and Confession times and locations within the eight county Altoona/Johnstown Diocese area.

Dr. Dan Wetklow, professor of computer science at Saint Francis, thought of the idea while he was traveling and wanted to find a close Mass to attend. He didn’t have time to peruse individual websites for times and locations, and realized an app should be developed to help others find the faith. He shared the idea with his colleagues, John Lamertina, assistant professor of computer science, and Mike Shanafelt, senior programmer and analyst at Saint Francis University’s Center of Excellence for Remote and Medically Under-Served Areas (CERMUSA). They named Shanafelt project manager and identified two Saint Francis students to help build the application.

Aaron Vizzini of Ebensburg, and Matthew Warfel of Clymer, were approached about the project. They were excited to gain real world experience and agreed to help develop the application. “Aaron and Matt played pivotal roles in creating Faith Finder,” Shanafelt states. “From application development to database design, to web service architecture, they created this product from the ground up.” All of the development costs of the app were covered by the University’s Joseph and Marguerite DiSepio Chair in Computer Science.

The team spent months writing the code and testing the application that searches the 89 Altoona/ Johnstown parishes to list Masses and Confessions by Church distance and by time. They also went a step farther than the original concept and decided to include a parish directory and a prayer guide on the app.

The Altoona/ Johnstown Diocese was pleased with the technology. "The Faith Finder app will be a welcome tool for Catholics throughout our Diocese searching for the most convenient Mass and Reconciliation times. We are grateful to Saint Francis University for using modern technology to bring people closer Jesus Christ," said Tony DeGol, Altoona/ Johnstown Diocese secretary for communications.

“Faith Finder” was recently launched on iTunes. The app is free to download, standard data usage rates apply. Users who have an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch may download the app at: http://bit.ly/17Dy6A2. The team is looking to build a version of the application for Android phones and is interested in expanding the app to other dioceses.

The students and project manager were recently interviewed by Bishop Bartchak for the Altoona/ Johnstown Diocese's "Proclaim!" television program, which aired on WWCP-TV 8 on June 30 at 5:30 and 10:30 am.