Looking to Be Inspired? Check Out Stand Firm Productions

Newfound Effort Inspires Love of Faith Through Great Catholic Speakers

The video of Bishop Austin Vetter, a North Dakota native serving as shpeherd of Helena, Montana, has more than 739,000 views combined across all platforms.
The video of Bishop Austin Vetter, a North Dakota native serving as shpeherd of Helena, Montana, has more than 739,000 views combined across all platforms. (photo: Courtesy photo / Stand Firm Productions)

“Stand firm against the culture of death” was a message that became a resounding call, touching deep into the souls four young men in the Diocese of Bismarck, North Dakota. The message inspired them to create Stand Firm Productions, a Catholic media company with a mission to ignite a love for Jesus and the faith through sharing talks from good priests and Catholic speakers. 

Cole Gendreau and Jake Olson had heard those words as they listened to a homily that Father Josh Waltz, pastor of the Church of St. Joseph in Mandan, posted on Apple Podcasts. “We were both convicted by the Holy Spirit to do something,” Olson told the Register. At the time, Gendreau, along with Mark Dever and Ben Weisbeck, had already started a marketing company. 

“I had known I wanted to do something in the media realm along with something that had meaning, and God put Stand Firm on my heart,” Gendreau explained. “I thought and prayed for a while about it before bringing it up to the other members at Stand Firm, and their response was an immediate, ‘Yes.’”

The name, Stand Firm Productions, is taken specifically from Scripture: “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14).

“Knowing the quality of priests and laypeople we have in the Diocese of Bismarck who are on fire for God and his message,” Gendreau explained, “I wanted to share it in a form of media that was easy for people to listen to and watch that emphasized quality visuals and audio and was able to be more intimate and engaging.”

“The Holy Spirit was working through us immediately,” Olson explained. “No amount of planning could accomplish what we’ve accomplished.” In just six months, Stand Firm Productions published 23 podcasts and 55 shorter form videos with power-packed messages and amassed more than 2.5 million views across several social-media platforms, including Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and X (formerly Twitter). Viewers hail from across the county and, thus far, 12 different countries. 

Their studio is a spacious garage being loaned to them with one wall set up like a cozy living room. They all have day jobs, while putting in an addition 20-40 hours of work a week in their mission to set the world on fire for Jesus. They are not nonprofit but welcome donations to help them as they seek to grow. Following them on social media, sharing the videos, and praying for the success of their mission are other ways to support them, they say.


Intriguing Talks

The video of Bishop Austin Vetter, a North Dakota native serving as shpeherd of Helena, Montana, has more than 739,000 views combined across all platforms. It was recorded when he was in Bismarck for his nephew Father Steven Vetter’s ordination. Bishop Vetter shares poignant stories and tells people to desire to save souls or, otherwise, Jesus is not real to us. When problems arise, Bishop Vetter says to turn to Jesus: “He doesn’t take the mess away; he enters it.” When asked what the biggest difference is between being a priest and a bishop, Bishop Vetter explained with a smile: “More hate mail.” Yet, through his stories and appeals for people to care for one another, he draws people deeper into a relationship with Christ. 

One of Father Waltz’s talks with a quarter of a million views includes reflections on prayer during a 30-day silent retreat in seminary. Considering the lure of the world, Father Waltz had told God that he has a terrible sales pitch. Then he heard God’s response: “Mine isn’t a sales pitch; mine is the truth.”

Titles and talks are intriguing. In Politicians Will Not Save You, Father Dominic Bouck, chaplain at the University of Mary and diocesan assistant director of vocations, addresses people who are outraged at politicians. “What? You can’t believe politicians are corrupt? What Bible have you read? They won’t save you, and they also won’t destroy you.”

Father Josh Ehli, rector of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck, in The Role of Distractions in Prayer, says, “I want to write a book on it: Distraction in Prayer: The Greatest Thing that Could Have Ever Happened to Me.”

Stand Firm Productions will soon include Handmaiden of the Home, with Sarah Merck, a wife and mother and owner of Root & Bloom photography in Minot. Her interviews will feature women in the world living their faith. 7-Mile Study, with Sam Breen, will connect the Old and New Testament with the Catholic Catechism. 


A Documentary

They are also working on a documentary recounting the miraculous recovery of Lance Goetz after being hit by a train in 1998, shortly before his graduation from St. Mary’s Central High School. Goetz had left his parent’s farm in Steele and headed to Bismarck to play basketball with friends. He never saw the train coming, due to no warning signal and a blinding sun. Goetz was ejected from his car and landed on the side of the road, torn to shreds. 

“He should be dead,” Weisbeck explained. “His mom said he was like a jigsaw puzzle, with fingers and legs just hanging on by skin.” No one expected him to make it alive to the hospital. When he did, survival still seemed impossible, even after he received enough blood for three people because he kept losing so much.”

“The first night in the hospital, essentially his entire class of St. Mary’s packed the chapel at St. Alexius Medical Center, praying for him,” Weisbeck said. “The prayers were unending. They’d be praying and get messages from doctors convinced something divine was at work.”

Goetz, who is married with two daughters and teaching in Mandan, admitted that telling his story is difficult, but he believes in the mission of Stand Firm Productions to spread the message of Jesus Christ. 

“Jesus is a big part of my story,” Goetz said. “So many have told me how my story has helped them, that I have to believe it should be shared, even if I do not like the spotlight. I see Stand Firm as a source for those who may be downtrodden, suffering or need to see something spiritually uplifting to fuel the spirit.” 


Impact Bigger Than Themselves

“It’s been rewarding to see how much it [Stand Firm Productions] is impacting people,” Weisbeck said. 

“Some Catholic schools have been using the videos in classes. What has occurred in the last six months, we are all blown away by.” 

“This is bigger than ourselves,” Merek said. “When you think that Bishop Vetter’s video has 46,000 people who liked it and 920 comments, you never know who you are going to impact.” 

“It’s truly been the Lord working through us,” Olson agreed. He only recently returned to the Church himself after 10 years away, receiving confirmation this past Pentecost. 

“The Church is under attack, and it is our mission to produce content grounded in Catholic teaching to inspire, encourage and call to action” Olson said. “Our goal is to direct those who search for meaning to God’s ultimate truth and to inspire believers to dive deeper into their faith, so they might stand firm against the influences of a culture of death.”

“We all need a Savior,” he said. “The Catholic Church saves; Jesus saves.”