‘Podcasting’ Priest Has Worldwide Flock
BY CARLOS BRICENO
August 27-September 2, 2006 Issue | Posted 8/28/06 at 9:00 AM
Father Roderick Vonhögen started podcasting as Pope John Paul II died.
A priest from the Archdiocese of
Utrecht in the
learned about radio during two years of studying social communications at the
Where did you grow up and what influenced you to become a priest?
I grew up in the
How did you end up getting involved in using the media to spread the faith?
One of the main drives in my vocation was I wanted to tell this to the young people of my generation. I felt that the Church had tremendous difficulty in speaking our language and to present the faith in a way that I could understand it as a 17-year-old. I have always been looking for ways to reach the people of my generation, especially those who are not going to Church. I realized I had to speak their language.
As a young priest, I was very much following the popular culture around me, and the media is so extremely important for young people, especially the Internet. So I started to evangelize in an area that was extremely popular at the time I started my ministry. And that was the whole Star Wars world. Since I was a big fan of Star Wars, why not make a Star Wars site as a priest and try to explain to people how much that movie relied on certain religious and Christian themes?
Before I knew it, I had 20,000 visitors a day from the whole world, and I was doing it in English.
That was the first time I
realized: I’m a priest in a small town in
What have you learned, and how have you grown as a priest in using the media?
I learned it is possible to reach
the younger generation, and it is possible to reach out to the world, because I
have listeners from all over the globe, from
The other thing I learned is that it is possible to reach people who are not Catholic yet. To keep them interested in what I, as a priest, have to tell. One of the most important things I have discovered is that in order for communication to work, you have to have some type of common ground. People who are not going to church, who do not share my faith, do not necessarily have common ground with me. In my “Daily Breakfast” show, I also talk about television, music, the latest news. And I answer the questions people have about Catholics.
The most wonderful thing that happens is so many people start RCIA (the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) and want to be become Catholics. I must have had dozens of e-mails from young people wanting to become priests and have actually enlisted in the seminary, and my podcasting played a very important role in that process. I’m amazed to see how much God is doing with these simple podcasts.
How were your podcasts received after the election of Pope Benedict XVI?
The day that the Pope was presented, I was standing right under the balcony with my microphone pointed toward the balcony.
This Protestant guy who e-mailed me, he was laying in bed, and he had downloaded that podcast. Of course, he had seen the images on television, but that doesn’t give you the same impression. He was listening to my account of standing under there, and then the doors opened. And I recorded the sound — habemus papam (“we have a pope”) — and then when the Pope entered the balcony, everyone was cheering in St. Peter’s Square, and he forgot that he was laying in bed next to his wife, and the dog was also in the room, and he started yelling: “Yeah! We have a Pope!” And his wife almost had a heart attack, and the dog started barking.
What does the future hold for podcasting, and what are your hopes for it?
I think that podcasting is going to be tremendously important for the Church. The problem is Catholic radio and television are on the decline almost everywhere in the world. Young people don’t listen to the radio anymore. They don’t watch television. There are almost no Catholic programs anymore in many countries, and I think podcasting is the new medium — both for video and audio — to reach that younger generation that is so much in need of good quality programs of information, of faith and to get in touch with other people they can relate to.
I see it as perhaps one of the
most important tools for evangelization through the media for the years to
come. ... I think there is a huge audience out there for programming, and the
only way to cater to the needs of the younger generation is to bring people
together and create a network, and I’m looking for people who would want to
help us financially to create quality television and radio and to distribute it
though podcasting. I’m convinced this can be the next
step for Catholic radio and television. I want StarQuest
Podcast Network to be for podcasting
like what EWTN is in the
Carlos Briceño is based in Seminole,
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