By Lois Rogers | Features Editor and Joyce Duriga | Catholic News Service
The word is in on “Catholicism,” a 10-part TV series on the history, culture and tenets of the Catholic faith by a Chicago priest who thinks media is the best evangelizing vehicle for these highly visual times. And the word is very, very good.
Pundits, prelates and scholars who have previewed the series which debuts on 90 PBS stations and Eternal Word Network this fall, are saying Father Robert Barron, creator and host of the series, got it just right – the series is a great evangelizing tool.
Around the Trenton Diocese, where the series is being showcased in two parishes to date, the pastors, Msgr. R. Vincent Gartland and Father Robert F. Kaeding, echo that verdict saying “Catholicism” has a powerful message that captures the ongoing impact of the Incarnation on the world.
“The (series) tells the story in a brilliant, engaging way” that encompasses all of the great tradition of the Church, said Msgr. Gartland, pastor of St. Ann Parish, Lawrenceville, where the series began airing Oct. 10.
“It tells people the Church’s story of love, mercy, compassion and concern for the poor and justice for humanity that is vested in its 2,000 year tradition.”
The series deftly counteracts the stereotypical image of the Church routinely conveyed by contemporary media, said Msgr. Gartland. He noted that while no one can deny the negative news presented, neither should the media “deny the fact that we have this powerful message of the Incarnation to tell.”
Msgr. Gartland took classes in homiletics, Scripture and foundations of Christian teaching from Father Barron during a 2006 sabbatical in the Pontifical North American College in Rome. He spoke of Father Barron as a man on a mission to “tell the (whole) story of the Church and not just a piece of it.
“Bob Barron realizes that he has this life mission to tell the story from our point of view; to look at the beauty and the gifts of this great heritage…everybody needs to start doing that,” said Msgr. Gartland.
The fourth episode of “Catholicism” was set to run in Precious Blood Parish, Monmouth Beach Oct. 12, said Father Kaeding. He pronounced the show, “wonderful. The theology is very good and it is visually so beautiful and easy to listen to.
“It’s easy to get excited about it. It is a very thorough study of what we believe.”
In interviews, Father Barron said his primary goal was to evangelize by showing the history and spiritual treasure of the Catholic Church.
The series carried out that mission by filming in 50 locations in 15 countries in high-definition. The production values, which are designed to transport viewers through time to the days when Jesus walked the earth and to follow the faith he founded through history, are spectacular, critics have said.
“The filming of the ‘Catholicism’ series was one of the most exciting and rewarding periods of my life,” said Father Barron, an acclaimed author, speaker and theologian. The Cardinal George Professor of Faith and Culture at Mundelein Seminary near Chicago, he is a frequent commentator on religious and cultural matters for The Chicago Tribune, NBC Nightly News, Fox News, Our Sunday Visitor, The Catholic Herald in London and The Washington Post.
He lectures extensively in the United States and abroad including at the Pontifical North American College at the Vatican and the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, in Rome.
Speaking of the series, Father Barron said: “I am thrilled that people across the country will have the opportunity to share in the series and I hope to engage the imaginations of both Catholics and non-Catholics with it.”
In this sweeping documentary, Father Barron tells the story of Catholicism around the world spotlighting the art, architecture, literature and music of Catholic tradition. Viewers follow the production crew as they travel to some of the most magnificent and sacred sites in Jerusalem, Rome, Krakow, Warsaw, New York, Istanbul, Ephesus, Lourdes, Mexico City, Athens, Corinth, Uganda, Manila, Sao Paolo, Auschwitz, Kolkata, Philadelphia, Chicago and beyond.
The team was granted exclusive access to film privately in many locations inaccessible to the general public including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, St. Peter’s Basilica, the pope’s private gardens at the Vatican and one of the largest religious celebrations on the planet: the feast of the Ugandan martyrs.
The series is so visually appealing that non-Catholics are likely to tune in predicted Eileen Daily.
Daily, assistant professor at the Institute of Pastoral Studies at Loyola University, Chicago, said the high-quality series is done in an inviting way.
“One of the biggest issues with evangelization is getting people not to put up a wall before your message gets to them,” said Daily, whose study includes using art for religious education. People will be more open to the message in “Catholicism” because its very high production values make it look like the rest of the shows they are used to seeing on television, she said.
Public television stations across the country including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia will locally air four 60-minute episodes of the series. At press time, EWTN was the only network listed on www.CatholicismSeries.com as showing the complete series in our area.
Father Barron, a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago and professor of faith and culture at the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary, said he was surprised PBS agreed to air episodes of “Catholicism.”
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