April 16, 2015
Panelists Discuss Sheen's Legacy in Catholic Media
Several leaders in the field of Catholic broadcasting gathered at The Catholic University of America Monday evening for a discussion about the role of media in the new evangelization. The conversation was part of a week of University events honoring the Venerable Fulton J. Sheen, who spent his life communicating the faith through radio broadcasts, a prolific writing career, and his acclaimed primetime television show, Life is Worth Living.
Prior to becoming a household name around the country, Archbishop Sheen was a philosophy professor at The Catholic University of America for 23 years, where he was well-known for his vibrant personality and theological knowledge.
“The new evangelization demands evangelizers who are faithful, creative, and committed to ongoing personal conversion,” said Sister Maria Frassati Jakupcak, co-chair of the University’s Fulton Sheen Legacy Committee. “The Venerable Fulton J. Sheen, with his daily holy hour, his innovative use of media, and his fearless preaching of the Gospel is just the sort of example the new evangelization needs.”
The discussion panel included Rev. Robert Reed, president of The CatholicTV Network and president/CEO of iCatholic Media, Inc., and director of the Radio Apostolate for the archdiocese of Boston; Rev. Thomas M. Rosica, C.S.B., founding chief executive officer of Salt + Light Television, Canada’s first national Catholic television network; and Michael P. Warsaw, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Eternal Word Television Network, Inc.
|Sister Maria Frassati Jakupcak|
The discussion was moderated by morning news anchor Andrea Roane, who has been with Washington’s CBS affiliate WUSA 9 since 1981. Rev. Andrew Apostoli, C.F.R., vice-postulator for Archbishop Sheen’s canonization cause, gave the evening’s blessing.
Warsaw, who has worked at EWTN since 1991, called Archbishop Sheen “an innovator, someone who saw that the Church and the message of the Gospel should be available on any media platform that became available.” He also spoke of the many similarities between Archbishop Sheen and Mother Angelica, who founded EWTN in 1981.
“As I reflect on both of them, I see some commonalities that made both of them successful,” Warsaw said. “There’s the simplicity of their message, the authenticity of their message and their teaching, and their grounding in their own spiritual life and understanding of where their gift to teach and to preach came from. That comes from a deep devotion to our Lord and the Blessed Sacrament.”
Father Reed said he admires Archbishop Sheen because of his commitment to his vocation and prayer. Though he made a name for himself in the world of television, Archbishop Sheen was first and foremost a parish priest, said Father Reed.
|Father Robert Reed and Michael P. Warsaw|
While there is much more competition for viewership in the media landscape today, Father Reed believes the goal of evangelization in the media remains the same. In order for a message to stand out, communicators need intelligence, commitment, creativity, personality, and “that something special” that Archbishop Sheen possessed.
“As a missionary and an evangelist, he did this marvelously well and so must we,” Father Reed said.
Father Rosica said evangelizers can learn many things from Archbishop Sheen’s example, including the idea that “faith cannot be relegated to the protective atmosphere of an isolated glass house.”
“Fulton Sheen reminds us of the great challenge that exists to us in Catholic media and broadcasting — that we often preach to the gallery,” Father Rosica said. “Sometimes it’s easier to communicate in an echo chamber and act like we are the only true faithful left, those who have not lost our way. Once we get into such a mindset, the only real way to deal with the world is to flee from it and communication becomes an internal affair, but Fulton Sheen reminds us that religious communication cannot be an internal affair.
“Just like Jesus Christ bonded with all kinds of fringe types, Fulton Sheen had a vast array of friends, from media moguls to ordinary people,” Father Rosica said. “He bonded with all of them and never missed an opportunity to evangelize or teach.”
For more information about Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Week and Archbishop Sheen’s role at Catholic University, visit fulton-sheen.cua.edu.