Making Place of Worship Safe to Pray

Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH), located in Ellicott City, Maryland, is a Roman Catholic Church with a parish of approximately 1,600 families and five buildings situated on a 21-acre campus.

In the summer of 2016, OLPH completed an addition to its church building, which included a narthex and Eucharistic Adoration Chapel. The chapel, which is the only one of its kind in the area, was designed as a place for OLPH parishioners, members of four other local parishes and the community to pray any time of the day, any day of the week.

Prior to the addition, all entries to the church building were managed by traditional keys. Those who wanted to enter the church to pray could do  so starting at 7 a.m. when a staff member unlocked the door until 8 p.m. when staff locked it at the end of the day.

According to OLPH Parish Administrator Lisa Sliker, “Wanting to o er those who would like to pray the opportunity to enter our chapel at any time, we needed an access system that provided both safety and convenience. We didn’t want the administrative responsibilities and challenges of cards, keys or fobs, and we were also aware of the potential liability issues associated with having the chapel open 24 hours a day.”

OLPH’s pastor, Fr. Erik Arnold, began to explore options by searching the internet where he came across VIZpin and brought it to the attention of the administrative team. Lisa comments, “We were not even aware that smartphone access control was an option, but soon, Our Lady of Perpetual Help became the first organization to use VIZpin in the state of Maryland.”

VIZpin readers were installed on three of the building addition doors, including the entrance to the chapel. With VIZpin, OLPH can offer access to the Eucharistic Adoration Chapel to those who want to pray there between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m., with the assurance that the building is secure even without staff present.

To introduce the system, the parish developed a web page that allows anyone who wants after-hours access to the chapel to make a request via an online form. The page also features simple step-by-step instructions for downloading and registering for the VIZpin keyless access control system. OLPH and area parish members are granted access, after parish affiliation is confirmed. Everyone granted after-hours access to the chapel uses VIZpin except for a small number of members who were given fobs because they don’t own smartphones. To-date OLPH has granted access to more than 300 users.

In addition to those who want to enter the chapel after hours, there are others who need to get into the church building through other entrances at other times, such as staff, musicians attending rehearsals and those who need to access the sacristy to prepare for Mass each morning. VIZpin’s cloud-based access control system allows OLPH to provide each group of users access to their respective zones to ensure safety. Now OLPH has only five physical keys in existence for the church, all of which are strictly reserved.

Lisa comments, “One of the biggest benefits is the elimination of keys. We no longer needed to worry about keys being lost, stolen or shared.” So far, Lisa says users have provided positive feedback. She concludes, “VIZpin has given Our Lady of Perpetual Help the freedom to allow for a multitude of people to come and go as they like at any point of the day to be in the presence of the Lord in prayer, while maintaining secure access control.”

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