The Catholic Church in Mumbai has decided to reach out to Christian youth in the language they understand best – the language of apps. The church’s communications centre  has designed its own sleek mobile application, called Archdiocese of Bombay, which will allow users to locate churches in the city, read stories from the Bible, get advice on religious issues and even make prayer requests.

The app is to be launched today, Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent, a 40-day period of abstinence before Easter. It is targeted at about 500,000 Catholics across 128 parishes under the archdiocese of Mumbai.

“The aim of the app is to reach out to the young as well as the old, and to offer simple aid for spiritual life and other helpful information,” said Father Nigel Barrett, director of the Catholic Communications Centre of the Mumbai archdiocese. For now, the app will only be available for Android users, but Barrett’s team is working to launch it on other mobile platforms as well.

A screenshot of the app

As an attraction for users during Lent, the app contains a set of tips on "carbon fasting", titled "40 earth-saving ways to fast this Lent". There is one suggestion for each day, such as cleaning up one’s litter, staying away from plastic bags and giving up gadgets for a day.

There is also a section in which users can request another person to pray for them – or for their health, job or exams – by registering as a person who needs a prayer. “Similarly, people can also register themselves as someone who would like to pray for another person,” said Barrett. Two convents of nuns – the Carmelite Cloisters in Mumbai and in Jalpaiguri – have registered to pray for those who apply.

Under Frequently Asked Questions, the app provides crucial information about the religious and legal processes required during marriages, funerals, baptisms and other occasions.

While all of these are general features that would be useful to Catholic subscribers all over the country, the feature that helps users locate the nearest church – along with its contact details and mass timings – makes the app more Mumbai-specific.

“So far the only Catholic app I’ve seen in India is Orlem Connect, which works as a social network for parishioners of a parish" in Malad, in northern Mumbai, said Barrett. The new app, however, has a much wider scope, and is not a social network. “We could help churches in other parts of the country develop similar apps and localise them,” Barrett said.