Students develop faith app

LORETTO – Catholics on the move will never have trouble locating the nearest Mass thanks to a new app developed by two St. Francis students.

The Faith Finder app pinpoints the user’s GPS location and plots a map of the nearby Masses in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.

Aaron Vizzini, 21, of Ebensburg and Matthew Warfel, 22, of Clymer helped develop the app.

“I thought it would be really fun to get involved in creating apps,” Warfel said. “It was a bit tricky. It involved a lot of research. I used the Internet a lot to learn how to use the program.”

Faith Finder was the first app Warfel helped create.

Users can find up-to-date Mass and confession times for the 89 different churches in the diocese and also access prayer resources, Warfel said.

The app pinpoints the closest services to the users’ location and gives users directions from their current location, Warfel said.

Dan Wetklow, a computer science professor, and Mike Shanafelt of the Center of Excellence for Remote and Medically Under-Served Areas, approached Warfel and Vizzini about joining the project.

A recent St. Francis graduate in computer science and math, Warfel said the programming experience was invaluable to helping him secure a job as a software engineer.

Vizzini joined Warfel about halfway through development of the app.

“There was some catching up to do,” Vizzini said.

Vizzini had previously worked with CERMUSA to develop a disaster management app and was familiar with the programming process, he said.

The Faith Finder app has real-world applications for users, Vizzini said.

The app is only available for iPhone and other Apple devices, Shanafelt said.

But students will work next year to program the app for Android devices, he added.

“It should be interesting to watch that and adjust as needed,” as more users download and access the app, Shanafelt said.

The students spent about a year working on the project and were paid to develop the app through funds from the Joseph and Marguerite DiSepio Chair in Computer Science, Shanafelt said.

About 30 users have downloaded the beta version of the app. The official launch of the Faith Finder app is slated for Monday, Shanafelt said.

Diocese officials gave their blessings to develop the app and said the information is easy to access for users on the go.

“I thought it would be a wonderful tool,” said Tony DeGol, diocese spokesman. “I was thrilled with it. I think they did a marvelous job.”

The app is free to download from the iTunes store by searching “Faith Finder” and is available for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

Mirror Staff Writer Zach Geiger is at 946-7535.