Listen to the show:
Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Chris O’Connor
Today’s guest(s): Fr. Robert Reed, president of the CatholicTV network
- Catholic TV Everywhere
- Carry Your Faith: CatholicTV iPhone app
- CatholicTV Magazine
Today’s topics: CatholicTV, America’s Catholic Broadband Network, and Fr. Robert Reed
A summary of today’s show: Fr. Robert Reed shares with Scot and Fr. Chris the roots of his call to the priesthood and how he came to be President of the CatholicTV network. Also, the history of CatholicTV, its dynamic and far-reaching present, and the bright future ahead.
1st segment: Scot welcomes Fr. Chris O’Connor to the show. The Ordination Mass this past weekend was the high point of the year. Six men from St. John Seminary were ordained at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross by Cardinal Sean. Fr. Chris was at a diaconate ordination for one of his seminarians down in the Diocese of Providence. Scot was able to watch the Mass on CatholicTV, because he couldn’t be present himself.
Scot’s 7-year-old daughter commented on how many hugs the new priests receive. All the priests in attendance give a holy embrace to each of the ordinandi during the ceremony and many of the priests in the Archdiocese were in attendance. When Cardinal Seán celebrates an ordination, you know an ordination has taken place after 3 hours! Cardinal Seán charges a “fee” to the new priests by requesting their first priestly blessing at the end of the Mass. Then he kissed their hands to show that these are priestly hands consecrated to the work of Christ.
You can watch the ordination at CatholicTV.com. Click on “cathedral events.” Fr. Chris said the only thing as special as the ordination Mass are the first Masses celebrated by the priests on Sunday.
2nd segment: Scot and Fr. Chris welcome Fr. Bob Reed. Fr. Bob notes that Scot is prepared for heading out to coach his kids’ baseball and soccer team this afternoon, and Scot said he thinks it’s good for kids to see him and his wife outside the house helping them in other activities.
Scot asked Fr. Reed how his vocation came about and what his influences led him to respond to the call. He was born in Boston and grew up in Swampscott. His parish was St. John the Evangelist, right there on the ocean. His vocation began in tragedy. He lost his dad in a tragic car accident when he was 7, just months before his First Communion. It caused him to think deeply about his Catholic faith and discover there was a lot there in his faith. His mother re-married a number of years later to a friend of his father. He also has 3 brothers and a sister. He also had marvelous priests in his parish and the Sisters of St. Joseph in the parochial school. It all developed this call that came from God.
Scot asked when he knew he wanted to enter the seminary. Fr. Bob said he was always thinking of the priesthood. Even though he was encouraged to look at other options, he remained sure. He was accepted to other colleges, but he decided to go to St. John’s and never regretted it.
Fr. Chris asked which priests were most role models. Fr. John Carroll and Fr. Dick Little were in his parish and the greatest influences. Fr. Little was once the chancellor for the Archdiocese. Fr. Little brought a crucifix to Fr. Reed’s home after his father’s funeral and Fr. Bob thought to himself, “Those are the hands of a priest!” In 1985, at his ordination, as he emerged from the cathedral, a man fell to his knees in front of Fr. Bob and kissed his hands too.
Fr. Reed studied at St. John’s Seminary College and then at the North American College in Rome. Studying at the NAC gives a man a great experience of situating him at the center of the Church to experience the universality of the Church and meet men from the Church throughout the United States. Fr. Chris asked if he had a pivotal moment in Rome.
Fr. Bob said the first few months were difficult because he’d never been away from home, realizing he couldn’t come home for two years. On Pentecost Sunday in 1985, he was the deacon for Pope Bl. John Paul II and chant the Gospel in Latin at the Mass in St. Peter’s Square.
After ordination, he served in parishes in Malden, Norwood, Haverhill, and Whitman. At the time, Immaculate Conception, Malden, was the largest parish in the archdiocese and it was an experience of the Church in a bygone era. In Norwood at St. Catherine’s was similar. In Boston at St. Matthew’s was a different experience. All along the way, there have been great people he’s met and he remains in contact with them to this day and they have taught him a wonderful lesson about what the priesthood is. Priests give, but they also receive so much.
Scot said that he hears good things about Holy Ghost in Whitman and it all seems to stem from the Perpetual Adoration launched by Fr. Bob there and that continues to this day. Fr. Bob said he’d never been to Whitman before he was named pastor and he said the people there love that it’s a small town off the beaten path. When he came to the parish, he wanted to find a way to keep the church open at all times to allow people a place to come and pray, to bring their struggles and fears before Jesus in the Eucharist. And that happened thanks to the generosity of some 200 people.
Fr. Chris said that many parishes that have Perpetual Adoration are those that are producing vocations and it’s both the prayers and the Eucharistic mindset of the parish.
3rd segment: CatholicTV is the oldest Catholic network in the country founded on January 1, 1955 with a New Year’s Day Mass with Cardinal Cushing. From that time, Sunday Mass has been celebrated on television. It started on Granby Street in Boston, right next to Boston University’s Catholic center. After a fire, it moved to Newton and then Watertown. The Granby Street studio was on the second floor of a building originally owned by Cardinal O’Connell. While the technology was different, it was remarkably similar to today’s setup.
The then-Boston Catholic Television moved to a former Raytheon building in Newton. The vision had always been for CatholicTV to have its own home and not be constantly renting. So they purchased a former convent from St. Patrick, Watertown, and built the building out with all the new studios. He gives credit to General Manager Jay Fadden and Chief Engineer Mark Quella for converting a convent to a television studio.
They managed to keep the convent chapel and it is now used to celebrate the daily Mass on Boston’s channel 68 and on cable. Fr. Bob said it’s also great to have a place to pray during the day with the Blessed Sacrament reserved there. Fr. Chris said it’s a great place to celebrate Mass even with the cameras on you.
Fr. Bob said St. Therese of Lisieux has always been a personal favorite of his and when he came to CatholicTV he promoted her as their patron. She is the patron saint of missionaries and he considers what they do to be missionary.
Scot asked him how it’s different to be a priest on television rather than in a parish. Fr. Bob said that Msgr. Frank McFarland called it the Parish of the Airwaves. Fr. Bob said he misses the intimacy with people in a community you come to live and come to know people’s lives. He still helps out in a couple of parishes on the weekends. But the intimacy he experiences now is unique because when you’re in front of a camera it’s you and one other person, multiplied by thousands. For the person on the other end of the TV, they are listening to you.
Fr. Chris asked about CatholicTV’s reach. Fr. Bob said it reaches beyond the Archdiocese of Boston to most of New England, on Comcast, Verizon, Charter, Sky Angel, RCN and a number of smaller cable outlets. Norwood Light and Braintree Light have cable systems for just those towns, for example. They also have unlimited video on demand on Verizon FIOS. They reach 10 million households. It’s a responsibility to be creative and faithful.
Scot said there’s also lots of content available beyond the television, including CatholicTV.com, an iPhone app, and CatholicTVjr. CatholicTVjr is a widget that anyone can place on their own website or blog so that all of CatholicTV’s videos and shows can be watched on those sites. Not only does it help people to learn about their faith, it also drives traffic to their own sites. Fr. Bob said Sean Ward is the guy at CatholicTV responsible for the website and CatholicTV magazine.
4th segment: Scot said the Daily Mass and the Daily Rosary at the signature programs for CatholicTV because it appeals to many shut-ins and homebound. Fr. Bob said many priests and Eucharistic ministers tell him that the homebound they visit are watching the Daily Mass every day and they leave CatholicTV on all day as a constant companion.
Scot asked how it works to schedule priests for every day for the Mass and they bring parishioners with them. Fr. Bob said it’s becoming more and more difficult to get priests who are often alone in a parish and have funerals and the like, so he always says how grateful he is for the priests who come in. The Sunday Mass is celebrated at the studios of Channel 7 at 7 am. The more people the priests can bring with them, the more it seems like a real parish experience, which is important to Fr. Bob. Fr. Bob said he likes that the studios are at a parish in a neighborhood and wants to bring that feeling to their broadcast.
Fr. Chris said Fr. Reed follows three great priests who led CatholicTV. Msgr. Walter Flaherty started it all after attending a symposium on the new technology of television. From the beginning, CatholicTV has been completely supported by its viewers, which was Msgr. Flaherty’s vision. Msgr. Frank McFarland was beloved by staff and viewers alike and gave 27 years of his priesthood to Catholic television. He had a way, a gift to stand in front of a camera and make a connection one-on-one with people, particularly his deep love for the Blessed Mother and the Rosary. The Daily Rosary was the brainchild of Msgr. MacFarland. This summer will mark the 10th anniversary of his death. Msgr. Paul McInerny came in during a difficult time in the history of the Archdiocese and left the network in a good way when Fr. Reed came in six years ago.
Fr. Reed said he’s always had a fascination with media in general. They’ve just completed an incredible upgrade to high definition at CatholicTV, which isn’t just new cameras, but every bit of technology, which sets them up to bring their media to every platform and every device available and yet to be built. He hopes to leave the place set for the future so they can continue to bring the Gospel message of Jesus Christ in a difficult time in our society when the Gospel is not always welcome.
Scot said other programs on CatholicTV include the Daily Rosary, which is recorded in many different places in the US and the world. Fr. Bob said whenever they go anywhere they take the occasion to record one or two rosaries. This past week they were in Washington DC with the St. Paul’s Choir from Cambridge and they prayed the rosary with the boys singing some beautiful motets. Fr. Reed said when he prays the rosary, either personally or for the TV, he thinks of how blessed we are to have the Blessed Mother. He has a beautiful pair of rosary beads that he brought back from Medjugorje in 1990 and gave to his mother. They were used every day by his mother until she went into a surgery from which she didn’t recover. Before the surgery she gave him the rosary beads and told him to pray them every day until she got better and as she did not, he is still praying them to this day.
5th segment: Scot said there are 110 different programs at CatholicTV. Fr. Bob said Catholic Destinations premiered a new episode. Kevin Nelson takes us to various sacred places and shrines and churches all over the US, Canada, and Europe. This latest edition focused on Bl. John XXIII National Seminary. He’s been to many pilgrimage sites. One of Scot’s favorite kinds of episodes is when Kevin visits new cathedrals that are built and he liked the episode on the new cathedral in Los Angeles.
Scot asked him about Wow, a Catholic quiz show for kids, mainly 3rd graders. Fr. Bob said our photographer George Martell took some great pictures of the shows recently and they are on our Flickr page. He said the kids are prepared ahead of time with the questions and answers. He tells the kids that they are teaching the audience about whatever the theme of the show is for the day. There is a large audience of 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders.
There are other programs that highlight archdiocesan priests. Fr. Bill Kelly and Fr. Chip Hines review movies from a Catholic perspective on the show Spotlight. Going My Way with Fr. Chris Hickey and Fr. Paul Rouse sing songs and are interviewed by Fr. Hickey. Fr. Reed hosts House + Home, going into the homes of local Catholic families to see how they make their houses into homes. Fr. Bob said it comes out of his deep respect for families as the domestic church and put the focus on great Catholic families living out the challenge of making a home; to show the beauty and power of family life. They had a special episode about the Pope’s home in the Apostolic Palace in Rome. The episode is at VisitThePope.com.
Scot said people often ask what it’s like to work with Cardinal Seán and how he lives and he thinks people are similarly curious about the Pope.
Fr. Reed said for the future, CatholicTV is going to all high definition on July 1.