One of the longest-running television shows in Canadian history is celebrating its golden anniversary this weekend.

Mass for Shut-ins will mark 50 years with a special live program this Sunday.

The show is broadcast to all three Maritime provinces and has always originated from the CTV studio in Sydney.

It began in 1963 when the manager of what is now CTV Cape Breton approached the Diocese of Antigonish with an idea.

“Mass for Shut-ins was the brainchild of Nate Nathanson, the founder of CJCB Television,” says show director Darryl Reeves. “He approached Fr. Frank Abbass at the time, wanting to have a religious program. It’s been a partnership ever since.”

Since then, the Mass has aired in many Maritime homes Sunday morning. For people who are ill or unable to get to church, the service has served as an alternative way of worship.

Mass for Shut-Ins has evolved over the years, but one man has helped out since day one.

“We had the older members involved,” says longtime volunteer Mike Morykot. “Gradually they phased out and newer members came in until what we have now.”

Volunteers who make up the congregation and choir are part of the show’s lifeblood, along with local clergy who deliver each Mass.

Some of the staff who produce each pre-taped broadcast have been doing it for decades and work behind the scenes with volunteers on the studio floor to ensure each show runs smoothly.

“I serve Mass and instruct the altar server,” says volunteer Peter Burke. “Then we go over Mass with the priest so we can get finished on time.”

While the show is best known for bringing Sunday Mass to the people who can’t make it to church, the sick and shut-in aren’t its only loyal weekly viewers.

“People like those last week who were shut in because of a bad storm,” says volunteer Patricia MacDonald.

“There’s probably not a family out there that somewhere in that unit doesn’t have somebody who watches Mass for Shut-ins,” says Reeves.

The people who make the show happen say their weekly TV experience is not only fun, but also rewarding.

“I feel good to be part of the congregation, that somebody at home who is not able to get out, is going to be able to watch,” says congregation member Honorine MacMullin.

The 50th anniversary Mass for Shut-ins special will air at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, March 3 on CTV.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Ryan MacDonald