CatholicTV, the Archdiocese of Boston-based television network that broadcasts religious programming and live events 24/7, has a new addition to the family: CatholicTVjr.
CatholicTVjr connects viewers with Catholic programming via a mini TV set right on their computer screens. The easy-to-navigate compact version of CatholicTV allows viewers to flip through a carousel of programs, choose an episode, and play the selection immediately in its entirety.
The network’s executives believe that this extended use of a website widget is unique right now in that viewers can pull up complete past episodes of programming on demand.
“We have a media-rich website with over 800 individual episodes,” explains Father Robert Reed, director of CatholicTV, “and we wanted to extend that to dioceses, parishes, schools and individual Catholic bloggers.” The CatholicTVjr widget allows their websites “to be more media-rich and doesn’t cost anything.”
In a way, CatholicTVjr is an anniversary present — parent CatholicTV celebrated its 55th anniversary on Jan. 1. “Jr” was launched officially at last November’s U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting; the TV station invited each bishop to incorporate the feature on their diocesan, parish and school websites.
“It’s a free gift,” stresses Father Reed, “because we want to fulfill our mandate to extend our platform … for our own programming and programs individuals are willing to share with us.”
While individuals can launch CatholicTVjr practically in the blink of an eye from the parent site, they can also find the widget embedded on other websites already giving their regular visitors the opportunity to tune in to everything from daily Mass to a variety of shows. The feature can be easily embedded on any website in one of its three available sizes.
Dioceses like Rockford, Ill., and the Archdiocese of Denver have placed CatholicTVjr’s shows only a mouse click away on their own website pages. “It’s right there on the home page for people to enter into anytime they want to,” says the Rockford Diocese’s director of communications, Penny Wiegert. “It gives another form of contact and outreach to people that visit us on the Web.”
Continues Wiegert, “We’re always looking for ways to provide our diocesan Catholics with credible resources and background to enrich their faith. This, thankfully, is another avenue to do that. I like it because it’s a one-size-fits-all for Catholics. It’s not strictly localized; it’s universal programming.”
It’s even a help for the Rockford Diocese’s “Catholics Come Home” initiative, a team effort with neighboring dioceses. Wiegert says it is enhancing the diocese’s invitation to encourage people to explore more about the faith.
Just a Click Away
Viewers can watch shows with such guests as theology of the body expert Father Roger Landry, National Catholic Bioethics Center’s president, John Haas, Joy-Filled Marriage NJ founder Damon Owens, and Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley. They can see Masses of installation for new bishops, past episodes from series on the Bible and the Ten Commandments, Vatican events and religious concerts. Daily they can pray the Rosary, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy with Benediction, and, of course, watch Mass.
But there’s more involved than simply ease of viewing. CatholicTV is a separate corporation from the Boston Archdiocese. Although it is fully funded by private individuals, it is under the auspices of Cardinal O’Malley, “who has asked us to extend what we have to as many dioceses and individuals as possible,” says Father Reed. This new initiative further answers Pope Benedict XVI’s call to utilize television and new media to reach Catholics.
Answering the invitation are several religious orders of men and women who have been sharing videos for a series named “The Call.”
Viewers also can keep up with Catholic military chaplains and servicemen and women in Iraq and Afghanistan who talk about support for Catholics on the battlefield on the popular talk show “This Is the Day,” with guests discussing topics that impact Catholic faith and life. Viewers can also tune into series episodes that are minicourses on the faith.
All the programming, even down to the youth game show “WOW, The CatholicTV Challenge,” which is theologically dense even for adults, fits in with the New Evangelization and the Year for Priests.
According to Anne Bezanson, marketing communications manager of Liturgical Publications in Wisconsin, which provides more than 3,500 churches with weekly bulletins, the firm was asked to add the widget to each Archdiocese of Boston church link they provide on SeekandFind.com. The company is now contacting other dioceses to promote interest in the same feature.
Catholic.net plans to soon add CatholicTVjr to its website as another resource for its newly launched, media-enhanced mobile phone version, which allows users access to thousands of faith-formation articles in English and Spanish. “There has been a growing user demand for multimedia content,” says Rosalia Tenorio, director of Catholic.net. “CatholicTVjr’s short educational videos will allow users to get the information they need quickly and from a reliable source.”
Joe Klinker, founder of CatholicMountain.com, a resource for Catholic men, said the widget helps him to bring excellent Catholic content to his viewers.
“A multimedia widget was just what I was looking for,” he says. In the past, he found it tough to get guys to read articles he posted on his website. But now?
“Instead of reading an article, watching videos is something very common for the men,” he says. Following Klinker’s guest appearance on “This Is the Day,” registered membership on his website rose to 1,000 from 38 countries.
“The fact that people don’t have to leave the site to watch it,” he says, “is an awesome feature of that widget.” While working, Klinker himself likes to have the daily Mass or his favorite talk show playing on the widget. His members like that feature, too.
No matter the way it gets to viewers, CatholicTVjr is a worthy chip off the old block.
Staff writer Joseph Pronechen is based in Trumbull, Connecticut.