Catholic Herald staff
Busy this Lent? No time for retreats, Stations of the Cross or other Lenten events? Try tuning into a Catholic podcast.
Two websites launched by diocesan priests – anchoredinthelord.com and studyprayserve.com – offer wisdom and insight for a faith-filled Lent.
“People are hungry to grow in their faith, and if we can use technology to feed that hunger, I want to be in the middle of that,” said Fr. Andrew Ricci, rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Superior, and pastor of its cluster parishes. “I think Lent is the perfect time to help people grow in their faith in the Lord.”
Fr. Ricci and Fr. David Neuschwander, associate pastor of St. Joseph, Rice Lake; Our Lady of Lourdes, Dobie; Holy Trinity, Haugen; and St. John the Evangelist, Birchwood, have both latched onto the digital broadcasting technology, which generates downloadable files that are free and available to all online.
With little more than a phone, a computer and a digital recorder, the two priests have stretched their ministry to reach the unchurched, the under-churched and Catholics looking for a more frequent dose of spiritual encouragement.
Cathedral, one of the most technology-forward parishes in the diocese, ministers to tech users through the MyParishApp and other digital means. A nearly 20-year veteran of the priestly vocation, Fr. Ricci launched his website, studyprayserve.com, three years ago and he now has more than 480 homilies, mission and retreat talks posted.
As Fr. Ricci explained, with so few priests in the diocese, it’s a practical way to get the most bang for your buck, so to speak.
“You just want to make sure that whatever you do, you leverage it, so it can get out to the widest group of people possible,” he commented.
Fr. Neuschwander, two-and-a-half years ordained, was getting a lot of requests for copies of his homilies. Youth ministers regretted their students weren’t able to hear him speak.
With a little encouragement from his brother priest – Fr. Ricci, that is – Fr. Neuschwander began publishing his homilies on his own website, anchoredinthelord.com, more than a year ago.
“The weekend homily is one of the most important things I do as a priest,” Fr. Neuschwander said. “I put a lot of time and effort into my homilies, because I know that for many people, this homily will be their spiritual food and nourishment for the coming week.
“By recording my homily and making it available, those who are not at one of my Masses, or who are traveling for the weekend, or who just want to hear it again, have the opportunity to listen,” he added.
Flexibility – the ability to reach people where they’re at – is the greatest benefit of the technology, both men said.
“We put stuff on the calendar at the church all the time,” Fr. Ricci added. But some people want events earlier, and some want them later. There’s no way to set a time that works for everyone.
Catholics don’t have to be afraid of technology, he emphasized. They can “put technology in the service of the Gospel.”
“If it furthers people’s faith, if it draws us closer to Jesus … then let’s use the technology that’s available to make that happen,” Fr. Ricci said.
Setting up the website took some time for Fr. Neuschwander, but he now spends only 20 minutes editing and posting his homilies each week. He has been gratified by the response.
“Some listen to my homilies during their workouts,” he said. “Some listen to my homilies in the car as a family when they travel of if they were out of town for the weekend. Some listen to my homilies a second or third time because they get even more out of them.”
All in all, the encouragement from listeners is what keeps Fr. Neuschwander podcasting.
“I’ve had many people thank me for putting my homilies up online, and knowing that it is making a difference in peoples’ lives and relationships with God makes the extra effort worth it,” he said.
To receive an email whenever the priests’ new podcasts are released:
1. Go to anchoredinthelord.com and studyprayserve.com
2. Find the “Follow this blog” button and enter your email address
3. Click on “Follow.”
Fr. Ricci also links to his podcasts on several social media sites: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIN, MyParishApp, and iHeart Radio.