by JORDAN MCMORROUGH
CHARLESTON — An effort by a group of volunteers to place an additional Catholic media presence on the Internet is taking to cyberspace on Dec. 14, the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who is also the patroness for evangelization. Those involved in the Carolina Catholic project hope the auspicious start date for the program (at www.CarolinaCatholic.org) marks the beginning of a long run, just as it serves to conclude months of behind-the-scenes planning.
Charles Lindsey, a parishioner at Blessed Sacrament Church in West Ashley and a veteran of four decades in the radio industry, was initially approached last year about a radio project by St. Mary of Namur Sister Colie Stokes, director of Adult Christian Formation at the parish.
The nun from Timmonsville, a convert to the faith, had experience of ministering in rural areas with few Catholics, and she saw a broadcast program as a valuable tool for catechesis of the flock as well as for non-Catholics, who make up about 97 percent of the population in South Carolina.
Lindsey then hooked up with Sister Margaret Kerry, manager of the Daughters of St. Paul bookstore in the Holy City. A focus of the Pauline sisters is using the media for evangelization, and the order quickly agreed to sponsor the proposed program with technical support and marketing.
Carolina Catholic is currently supported totally by donations. “We stop when we run out of money,” Lindsey laughed. But so far the funds have gone a long way, thanks to cut rate studio rental and donated time on the part of contributors, such as Mark Thomas, director of music at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, who performed the musical interludes for the program.
Of the four shows taped so far, different priests have been featured in each. Father Jeff Kendall, pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Charleston, has spoken on Revelation; Father Basil Congro, pastor of St. Patrick Church, also in Charleston, has discussed Zecchaeus; Msgr. Lawrence McInerny, pastor of Stella Maris Church on Sullivan’s Island, has hosted a question-and-answer session; and Father Joseph Hanley, pastor of Blessed Sacrament, has examined the practical applications of the Bible to everyday life.
“They talk in down-to-earth language, not church terms,” said Lindsey of his clerical broadcast colleagues. “It’s a great way to reach the unchurched, and the only way to get through to them is evangelization.”
Before the project began, Sister Stokes and Lindsey conducted focus groups, meeting once a week with people of various ages and cultures as well as media professionals, to iron out what the format should be.
Question-and-answer segments, interviews and Gospel readings came to the top of the list, and organizers aim to give the audience what it asks for.
Each 30-minute program features a 3- to 4-minute homily, a 6- to 8-minute interview, and a question-and-answer period, making for a pretty packed half-hour for the webcast.
“We’re not trying to proselytize the whole world, but we’ve got a program that’s going to grow,” Lindsey said.
“Imagine folks in rural areas with an opportunity to have their faith nurtured by this,” Sister Stokes said. “Someone with an innate faith just tuning in is what I have in mind. This is a fertile area.”
The nun plans to eventually bring in priests from all areas of the state to tape programs. In addition, once the shows are completed and transferred to CDs, she plans to distribute them to those who are incarcerated.
Said Sister Stokes, “Numbers don’t matter. We’ll just do it and leave the rest to God. It doesn’t hurt to dream big. There are a lot of possibilities for something like this. It’s a way to introduce our faith to others.”
Lindsey continued on that theme. For years, he said, the church waited for people to come to it. “This is different. We’re utilizing what we’ve got now via the electronic media. We’re designing a program where people can plug in.”
The radio veteran acknowledged some realities that needed to be dealt with in the format of this new venture before success could be achieved.
“We have to talk their talk to be able to communicate with them. How do we communicate to young people what we believe as Catholics? We’re right on the cutting edge. We have to react to a changing world. We’ve got to attack the issues head on in a way they can understand. People like to be talked to, not preached at,” Lindsey emphasized.
Four types of programs are planned for the new endeavor, each with a different target audience.
Carolina Catholic, the flagship program, will be geared to those 35 and older. Separate shows are planned for African-Americans and Hispanics. The Spanish language program “will be the social gospel in a lot of ways,” Lindsey explained, saying that episodes would include practical information such as obtaining citizenship papers and visas as well as financial tips.
Tentatively set to begin taping in January is a show aimed at college students, those age 18 to 24. Volunteer radio personalities from the College of Charleston will play Christian music and discuss subjects pertinent to that age group them.
It is hoped that there will be volunteer representatives from COC campus ministry for each class — freshman, sophomore, junior and senior. Those taking part in the project will be responsible for every aspect of the show, from planning to on-air talent to post-production of the computer broadcast.
“It’s been a lot of fun so far,” Lindsey said.