Shining the “Green Light” on Penance

Image credit: (2019), CC0/PD

Harnessing the power of chroma key technology

By Marianne Green

Waiting patiently for the green light to shine above the confessional, I felt slightly intimidated. Here I was, a new parishioner, and unfamiliar with how my community arranged the environment within its confessionals. Where would the priest be seated? Would I have the option of face-to-face? Would there be a kneeler or just a chair? Yes, these thoughts may be trivial to most, but there is a comfort in the familiar, especially when one is seeking spiritual healing. In that moment, I considered how can technology help communities learn about the healing sacrament. I smiled, looked up at the green light, thought – green light and green screen – and opened the door.

Leveraging technology requires a little research, a willingness to make mistakes, and the joy of exploration. Leading the way, Pope Francis in his 2014 World Communications Day Message announced, “Keeping the doors of our churches open also means keeping them open in the digital environment so that people, whatever their situation in life, can enter and so that the Gospel can go out to reach everyone.” One of the digital methods that will help instruct not only students, but also the larger parish community, is chroma key technology.

Chroma key, aka “The Green Screen,” simplified is when two separate images are composited into one. When this composite technology first emerged, it was in the 1930s and became more popular in the 1970s and 80s. The main colors used for these background screens were either blue or green. Ed Driscoll in his “The Keys to Chromakey: How To Use A Green Screen” explains the basic concept: “Flesh tones don’t contain blue or green. So you can remove the screen color without causing the talent’s face to dematerialize.”

Why would chroma key technology work as an eLearning tool? This technology would allow for you and your students to design instructional videos for your school and your parish communities. In this case, the instructional video would feature the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. The video project could feature the layout of the physical confessional space, the history of the sacrament, the ritual and meaning of penance, and/or the Examination of Conscience. Schools with larger classes would also have the option of smaller groups working on these or other relevant topics to compose a video catechism series. This series could then be shared via social media platforms such as Facebook, Vimeo, or YouTube.

Beginning a video project may seem daunting, but here are some guidelines to encourage you to embrace this opportunity to help your students in their evangelization:

Plan Ahead

  • Contact your pastor and your principal. Discuss with this project with them. Invite the pastor to participate in the project. (If he’s willing to be in front of a green screen to instruct, then take advantage of this gift.)
  • Review your schools policy on minors as subjects in videos. Ensure that any student participating has parent/guardian permission to be videotaped. Check with your school and diocese about a Publicity Release Form. Here is a sample form from Sacred Heart School in Lyndhurst, New Jersey.
  • Locate a solid green wall, or have a green screen ready for the instructional video portion.
  • Have a smartphone or camera ready to videotape the interior of the church.
  • Ensure access to chroma key video editing applications. Consider After Effects, WeVideo, Avid Media Composer, Apple Final Cut Pro, and iMovie.


  • Discuss the chroma key use in filmmaking with your students. Some options for this exploration may be “The Invisible Man” (1933), “Superman – Flying with Lois Lane” (1978), or “Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi – Speeder Bike Chase” (1983).
  • Introduce students to the main objective: designing an instructional video about the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.
  • Brainstorm with students on how they would teach this topic to others. Compile these notes, share them with your pastor and principal, and design the video topics accordingly. Sharing this process with them will enrich the project and help the pastor engage the students where they lack understanding.
  • Take a preliminary video of your church’s space. Show students this video. Converse about camera angles, frames, and length of video. With the students, determine the overall video length. This decision helps with students’ scripting their green screen video overlays.
  • Video the church space according to the class’s discussion. This process can be done by either you or the students depending on time and school cellphone policy.
  • Set-up the studio area. Review “5 Green Screen Mistake Beginners Make.” Discuss a possible extension project on DIY photo reflectors.
  • Have students write up instruction scripts and conduct a few trial run-throughs. View examples from Father Mike Schmitz: “Making a Good Confession,” the Venerable Fulton Sheen: “The Sacrament of Confession,” and Father Bill Byrne: “A Guide to Confession | How to Go to Confession”.
  • Video the instructional portion in front of the green screen, edit the chroma key, and publish videos to the previously decided media platform.

Review and Reflect

  • Invite the pastor and principal to come to a “Green Light Viewing Party.” Ask the pastor and principal to give the students direct feedback.
  • Conduct a Plus/Minus/Delta eLearning reflection.
  • Stress the connection between students’ videos and their mission as baptized Catholics.
  • Send thank you notes with students signature to both the pastor and the principal. An attitude of gratitude goes a long way.
  • Share your work with the greater Catholic community via #CatholicEdChat on social media.

Deciding to use chroma key technology enhances students’ engagement with their own faith practice and with understanding their role to “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life” (Concluding Rites). May the light continue to shine “green” for you on this eLearning journey!

Copyright 2020 Marianne Green. All rights reserved.

Guidelines for using images of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation

  1. Images should include face-to-face and behind the screen options for the sacrament. Images should not show preference of one form over the other.
  2. Priests should not be touching the penitent, even during the blessing.
  3. Penitent can either kneel or be seated.
  4. Avoid only showing a penitent talking to a screen.

More helpful resources from

How to Prepare Spiritually for the New School Year

Putting Christ at the Center

Great Ideas: Understanding Reconciliation

Apology and Forgiveness: Restoring Dignity in Relationships

Marianne T. Green, MA, a Golden Apple recipient and independent consultant for the Catholic Apostolate Center, is an adjunct faculty member of St. Joseph’s College. Her recent collaboration with Diocese of Reykjavik is featured on Instagram @Virtual_Disciple.

All content copyright © Today’s Catholic Teacher/ All rights reserved. May be reproduced for classroom/parish use with full attribution as long as the content is unaltered from its original form. To request permission to reprint online, email