On Catholic TV and Renewal: Q&A with Father Robert Reed

Father Robert P. Reed is a Massachusetts-based priest of the Archdiocese of Boston and President of The CatholicTV Network since 2005. He attended Saint Johns Preparatory School and studied for the priesthood at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. He also holds an advanced degree in Television Management from Boston University's College of Communication.

Ordained in 1985, Father Reed has served in parishes in Malden, Norwood, Dorchester, Haverhill and most recently as pastor of Holy Ghost Parish in Whitman, MA. His CatholicTV Network is available in more than 14 million homes and also includes a 24-hour live internet stream and television episodes available for viewing on-demand and embedding at CatholicTV.com

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On The CatholicTV Network, Father Reed hosts the game show WOW: The CatholicTV Challenge, the reality series House+Home, co-hosts the talk show “This is the Day,” celebrates televised masses, provides commentary on televised news events, and prays the rosary with viewers three times daily from various locations around the world. He is also director of the Radio Apostolate for the Archdiocese of Boston while assisting at Corpus Christi-St. Bernard Parish in Newton and St. Bonaventure Parish in Plymouth, MA.

Father Reeds new book “Renewed: Ten Ways to Rediscover the Saints, Embrace Your Gifts, and Revive Your Catholic Faith” was published Oct. 20 by Ave Maria Press. On Nov. 3, I interviewed Father Reed by email about his new book and work in Catholic media.

Why did you write this book?

I was invited by Ave Maria Press of Notre Dame. The CatholicTV Network has a great relationship with University of Notre Dame since we broadcast the 10 o'clock Mass each Sunday morning Live from Sacred Heart Basilica on campus. I was honored by the invitation and I thought it was a unique opportunity.  What I’ve tried to do is provide some simple reflections on how any one of us can become a catalyst for renewal based on the rich example of the "saints and greats" who have struggled and gone before us.

Who is your audience?

The book is directed primarily to Catholic laypeople. It's a quick read for anyone who wants to find a way in his or her own life to help renew the Church. I also believe the book could be particularly useful for faith-sharing groups and adult education programs. Each chapter has a prayer, a scripture passage and some questions/reflections, all of which could prompt a lively discussion

How and why should people “rediscover the saints,” as your subtitle puts it?

Our religion, our Catholic Faith is one of encounter. We encounter Jesus Christ in Word and Sacrament. We encounter Him in the Church, in our prayers and in one another…particularly in lives of the poor and little children. The Saints and the many great people who have gone before us knew this. As part of the communion of the Church, their prayers and example spur us on.   They struggled, they used their gifts, they encountered Jesus Christ in the same way we do. By some unusual pairing of these men and women who have gone before us and in rediscovering them, perhaps we access our gifts for the renewal of the Church today.

What do you mean by telling people to “embrace your gifts” in the Catholic Church?

All too often, we feel as if our abilities and contributions are insignificant. The fact is, no matter our age or vocation, background or education we have all been gifted by God with exactly what we need. Every one of us can make an impact for renewal in the Church. Every one of us can be a force for the New Evangelization. The Saints were people who were able to discover their gifts and, by the grace of God, use them for the good of the Church and the world. We can do the same.

When you tell people to “revive your Catholic faith,” what do you have in mind?

Being a Catholic can become routine. We go to church, we say our prayers, we fulfill our obligations.  But the New Evangelization asks us to live our Faith with a greater enthusiasm, to be animated by the joy of the Gospel. We need to think of ourselves as agents of revival, allowing our enthusiasm for the Catholic Faith and life to be infectious.

What do you want people to take away from this book?

If a person reading the book—either alone or with a group—can discern one simple way to make oneself a more joyful and effective disciple of Jesus Christ, I will be satisfied. Multiply that thousands or tens of thousands of times and you have the seeds of a revival!

Although EWTN and Trinity Broadcasting Network continue to dominate the U.S. Christian broadcasting audience, several archdioceses like your own have worked hard to establish a daily media presence of their own. As you understand it, what is the goal of these initiatives, and how might they support one another?

The CatholicTV Network is part of a group of communications initiatives within the Archdiocese of Boston. But the network also stands alone as a broadcast platform for all that is good and exciting in the Church throughout the nation and beyond.  Our tagline defines us well:  America's Catholic Television Network.  I like to think that this also aligns us with America Magazine! The network is now available in over 14 million homes across the nation and, for those parts of the country where we are not yet “on the dial,” we have a very robust High Definition presence on the Internet at www.CatholicTV.com and a channel on Roku and Google TV. Since we represent a great repository of Catholic media focused on family, parish, campus and diocese and since we are “free-to-air,” there's simply no reason to reinvent this wheel. Viewers can go to www.GetCatholicTV.com to help bring us to their area on cable and satellite.

How are things going at CatholicTV right now?

Things are going quite well. We have a small but creative and dedicated staff who enjoy being competitive with the Gospel message. What I mean is: We see ourselves, not in competition within the church, but in competition with secular media. As a group, we are confident that Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God is the most important message to be transmitted.

It often feels like Catholic media is perpetually playing catchup with secular media, barely making a dent in the attention span of most Americans who dont attend Catholic Mass regularly. How do you change this situation?

Exactly. And this is what I mean by the necessity of being competitive with secular media. Our challenge is to make the teaching and the life of the Church real and interesting to people, to present the Gospel in an engaging manner amidst the cacophony, without watering down the message.  That’s a huge challenge. And at the same time, we continue the push to become available in every home and on every device.

What do you hope people will take away from your work in Catholic media?

I consider myself so fortunate and blessed to be a Catholic. When we really take a hard look at Catholic history, tradition, teaching and life, it becomes abundantly clear that we have at our fingertips both the fullness of the Truth and the tools to rebuild the Church. The role of Catholic media is simply to put the spotlight on Catholic richness and to help people to see how blessed we are to share the precious gift of Catholic Faith.

Are you working on any other projects right now?

Interestingly enough we just finished a 10-part series entitled RENEWED that is designed to be a companion to the book for small groups. The series can be viewed and used at CatholicTV.com/Renewed. I'm also thrilled to be taking our series House+Home on the road. It’s a quasi-reality show allowing the viewer to visit with some great Catholic families. In a couple of weeks I will be in the Archdiocese of St. Louis spending some time with the Allgeyers family.  Hopefully our focus on the family will serve to strengthen that fundamental institution which has been under attack along with helping families to learn from one another. In line with that effort, we also look forward to being present in Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families in 2015.

Whats your favorite scripture verse and why?

Matthew 28:20b. “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” These parting words of Jesus before he ascended to the Father give me great courage and strength. I know that I am never alone; none of us are. The risen Lord walks with us, forgives us, feeds us and gives us exactly what we need to face incredible challenge and renew the face of the earth.

Do you have any hopes for the future?

Yes, to go to heaven! And in the meantime, to see a second Catholic television network with a distinctive focus, available in every home and on every device.

Sean Salai, S.J., is a contributing writer at America.

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