When Astrid Bennett Gutierrez, Janet Morana and Teresa Tomeo get together, something fantastic happens — it’s called The Catholic View for Women.
It’s a new EWTN talk show. Several pilot shows ran on the network last year, garnering reviews so favorable that EWTN not only contracted for a full series, 13 episodes of which will air this fall, but also created a brand-new set.
The trio traveled to the Irondale, Ala.-based EWTN studios in March to tape the fall season.
The idea for the show was conceived by host Janet Morana, executive director of Priests for Life and co-founder of the Silent No More awareness campaign. The concept spent five years in gestation before EWTN approved the production of six episodes in 2010.
“I’d look at [secular] women’s talk shows, and say, ‘This is why Catholic women are getting poor information, because they’re not getting the truth of the Church,’” Morana explained. “We see a strong need to help catechize women who are where we were so that they won’t fall away like we did.”
Morana shared her concerns and ideas with author and syndicated Catholic talk-show host Teresa Tomeo. Tomeo’s daily morning radio program, Catholic Connection, is produced by Ave Maria Radio and also airs on Sirius/XM Satellite Radio. Tomeo liked Morana’s idea and approach and suggested Astrid Bennett Gutierrez, executive director of Los Angeles Pregnancy Services, as a third host.
Gutierrez was hooked as soon as she heard the idea. “I’m really grateful. I feel privileged to be here with Janet and Teresa, because they’re my heroes,” Gutierrez said. “That they would pluck me out of my little neighborhood, that they realized the minority voice must be heard [on the show], is a huge blessing.”
The mix of personalities, backgrounds and cultural heritage creates the perfect balance for the co-hosts and forms a solid foundation for lively and inspiring exchanges on the show. Morana is a native New Yorker, Tomeo is a Midwesterner and Gutierrez is a West Coast native of Hispanic decent.
What’s more, the women all had one thing in common: Each had left the Church and come back with the realization that only the Catholic Church holds the fullness of truth.
As Tomeo said, “There’s an urgency in all three of us to really help women. That’s where our hearts are at, and that’s where the energy comes from. Additionally, we’re all staunchly pro-life, and this is a pro-life show. Of course, we also are good friends.”
The hosts believe the Holy Spirit is the source of what they describe as an immediate sisterhood that “just clicked” when they began working together. “The Holy Spirit took our pain and our pasts and works within all of us, using our different gifts to do something wonderful,” said Morana.
Each show has entertainment, substance, catechesis and “homework” that help women grow in their Catholic faith. The show’s website (TheCatholicViewforWomen.com) offers discussion questions for each episode that can be used for personal reflection or group discussions.
According to the website, the show’s goals are: “To reach Catholic women in the pews who are cafeteria Catholics, who have never been exposed to the fullness of the faith because of poor catechesis; to reach fallen-away Catholic women like us and show them the beauty of the faith/Church teaching and how Jesus is the greatest liberator of women and the greatest source of our dignity; to reach the un-churched, who have completely fallen away from the faith; to encourage today’s faithful Catholic women, that they can be in the world and not of the world; to meet women where they are at in their walk with the Lord and the Church; to help parents in their efforts to raise their daughters as faith-filled Catholic women; and to offer a positive, relevant and fun alternative to today’s toxic TV shows targeting women.”
“I’m so upset with the lack of objectivity in the secular media; it’s absolutely devastating to women,” said Tomeo. “The media can do so much good, but, lately, they’ve been doing so much damage.”
As a Hispanic woman, Gutierrez was raised on what she calls “survival mode,” with minimal catechesis and in an amoral environment. Still, she always felt a strong attraction to the Church.
“What I really want is that women of all ages will be able to see the beauty of the Catholic Church that I missed for so many years: the Eucharist, morality, (Church teaching on) sexuality, the truth about the pro-choice lies and all those things that are misleading women,” said Gutierrez. “I’d like to see minority women assimilate, but not into the mainstream culture. I’d like them to assimilate into the culture of Christ.”
Gutierrez, as well as her co-hosts, hopes that the show will become a catalyst for change and a means to dispel the plethora of myths about Church doctrine.
“We want women to see that the Church is not the ‘evil monster’ that the secular media makes her out to be,” added Morana.
The hosts also hope The Catholic View can be a vehicle to let others know about EWTN and the wealth of information and devotions that it has to offer Catholics.
“There are too many people in the pews who don’t yet know about EWTN. We’re so grateful to EWTN for the opportunity they’ve given us,” said Morana. “We’re excited that they think this is valuable programming.” (The Register is a service of EWTN.)
Morana, Tomeo and Gutierrez spend a good amount of time researching for each show. Before taping, they gather Church documents, conduct interviews and search for other information that will form a substantial basis for the topics they will discuss.
During the shows, they quote Scripture, Church documents, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and writings of the saints and doctors of the Church as much as possible. Topic ideas come from their own experiences as well as interaction with friends, acquaintances and viewers.
It’s not only the information that they work hard at — it’s also giving the show a professional appearance. The hosts shop together, intentionally coordinating their outfits to complement each other on the set, and they hire a professional make-up artist to do their hair and makeup, all at their personal expense. They know they must take their on-air presence seriously in order to compete with secular shows.
“God’s message deserves it,” Morana said. “It’s his word, his teachings, and what we’re doing is wrapping it up in a pleasing package so that people open it up and really appreciate it.”
This season’s shows will focus on women leaders in the Church, EWTN’s foundress Mother Angelica, Blessed Mother Teresa, St. Teresa of Avila, the single life, discernment, the pill, saying Yes to marriage as a sacrament, pornography’s effect on women, in vitro fertilization and egg harvesting, miscarriage, faith and fitness, college life and minority issues.
Doug Keck, EWTN’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, thinks the show brings something new and innovative to the network’s lineup. “The show has a different format, with a different approach, and allows us to reach an audience we haven’t been able to reach before in a new way,” he said. “It’s a strong series with great potential, and we’re committed to it.”
Marge Fenelon writes from Cudahy, Wisconsin.