Franciscan University Launches Web Series

Meet “J,” a new Internet employee with a single letter for a name. His job is to answer questions as a “human app” with the title “human-answer generator.”

Easy job, until questioners ask J questions like: “What is the meaning of life?” Or “Why is there suffering in the world?”

“Ask J” is a new Web-based series of five episodes, all under five minutes each. It’s a resource of from Franciscan University of Steubenville.

The executive producer of the series is Bob Rice, a Franciscan graduate who is now a catechetics professor at his alma mater. Previously, he was a youth minister.

Rice ( is also a familiar face to youth and youth ministers. An accomplished musician, he has released many CDs and leads worship at the Steubenville Summer Conferences.

The “Ask J” idea came about as Rice and others were brainstorming new ways to reach youth. “On EWTN we do Franciscan University Presents and get a lot of feedback. So we thought, ‘Let’s do another show,’” Rice explained. “With the extensive audience of youth and young adults at conferences, we thought we should create a show for them.”

Honing in on what would be attractive to young people, he and his team “decided to teach through storytelling,” Rice said.

“The whole point is to encourage a young person to seek truth beyond Google and ask bigger questions than the Internet can answer. Information is very different than wisdom.”

According to Rice, “Ask J” is a kind of conversation starter, not a definitive answer, as J can’t answer deep questions in a phrase or two. In fact, he doesn’t know the answers himself and looks for them in all of the wrong places, illustrating what much of society does when seeking.

To aid dialogue, short discussion guides for each episode are available at In addition to questions, there are Scripture and Catechism verses for reference. The website also offers talks and music videos from the Steubenville conferences.

The series actors are professionals, as the Franciscan team worked in Los Angeles with Outside da Box, the production company that made the 2016 Gabriel Award “Best Family Film” Full of Grace.

“All of us who created it [‘Ask J’] are Christian and Catholic,” Rice noted. “There’s a very strong movement in Hollywood trying to impact the culture. What we’re trying to do is help the people with these projects.”

Joseph Pronechen is a

Register staff writer.