The ‘Bible in a Year’ Podcast to Advertise in Times Square for New Year’s Eve
Ascension Press unveils big plans for the popular podcast, which has been a huge hit since its rollout in 2021.
After spending most of the year at the top of the charts of religion and spirituality podcasts, The Bible in a Year podcast is headed to New York with a billboard in Times Square to bring the Good Book to “the city that never sleeps” this Christmas season.
More than 330,000 people walk through Times Square on any given day, and The Bible in a Year billboard will reach them during the peak holiday season from Dec. 19 through Jan. 9, 2022. But the billboard was not the only new development Ascension Press announced on Nov. 3. The Catholic publisher announced a new Bible in the Year retreat, a forthcoming Spanish-language-edition podcast in 2022, and then teased a potential Catechism in a Year podcast for 2023.
The Bible in a Year podcast — a joint venture of Catholic evangelist and Bible teacher Jeff Cavins and Father Mike Schmitz — has seen 142 million downloads and 3.3 billion minutes of listening from people all over the world.
Ascension Press announced that Apple ranked the podcast No. 1 in all categories, from Jan. 2 to 18, 2021. The Bible in a Year then dominated as “No. 1 Podcast in Religion & Spirituality” from Jan. 2-Jun. 30, dipping briefly down to No. 2, before taking up the No. 1 spot again from Oct. 24 up to the present day.
“I’m just reading the Bible to them and trying to proclaim God’s word,” Father Schmitz said on the virtual press conference call. “And hopefully [for them], God has that word of consolation, that word of encouragement, that word of strength, and they respond in faith.” Father Schmitz, director of youth and young-adult ministry for the Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota, as well as the chaplain for the Newman Center at the University of Minnesota, has been producing video short explainers on the Catholic faith for Ascension Press since 2015.
Cavins said over the last couple years many people have lost their sense of direction and are experiencing turmoil in their lives.
“They’re looking for a brighter future, and they’re looking for someone whom they can trust,” he said during the press call. “And they’re not getting that in social media. They’re not getting it in government. They’re not getting it in other social circles.”
Cavins, who developed his “Bible in a Year” narrative timeline as part of the Great Catholic Adventure Bible, told reporters that The Bible in a Year podcast started when Father Schmitz suggested expanding Cavins’ “Bible in a Year” narrative reading plan across the entire year.
The Bible in a Year podcast is comprised of 365 episodes narrated by Father Schmitz and follows Cavins’ timeline that arranges the Scriptures in a way that people can see God’s love and plan unfold for them over time.
Episodes are an average of 23 minutes, with Father Schmitz reading Scripture, providing commentary, reflection and prayer; Cavins is a featured guest. The podcast uses the Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition for Scriptures, and the reading plan includes a map and a guide to help listeners journey through the Bible.
“It touches me deeply to hear the testimonies,” Cavins said, recounting the people he has encountered in different settings, such as his dental hygienist, a police officer and a bicycle mechanic, who have told him they are avid listeners.
Cavins said that, because of the podcast, people have “discovered the heart of their Heavenly Father.”
“They discovered that he actually had a plan for their life,” he said. And when it comes to the two things people are searching for, a brighter future and someone to trust, Cavins said, “They’re finding it in God; they’re finding it in his word.”
Both Father Schmitz and Cavins said in response to a question from the Register that the podcast is having an impact far beyond Catholics. Father Schmitz said many different clergy of different denominations have reached out and told him they’re using the podcasts, and other Christians have mentioned their appreciation, especially since they are discovering Catholic-approved books of the Bible, like Tobit, they are not familiar with.
“That kind of feedback is very interesting and very powerful,” he said.
Cavins underscored that the podcast is an evangelizing tool, as listeners share it with others, such as friends and family, who are not Catholic.
“We have just thousands of people who shared it with people who weren't Catholic,” he said. “And they absolutely loved it.”
Currently, The Bible in a Year podcast has more than 460,000 daily downloads, with 90% of them coming from the U.S. The Bible in a Year billboard in Times Square is expected to help Ascension Press expand that national and international audience.
Lauren Joyce, Ascension Press’ communications specialist, told reporters that there are plans underway to roll out a Spanish-language version on Jan. 1, 2022, La Biblia en un año Podcast, which will include culturally appropriate commentaries and notes.
“We’re going to find native Spanish speakers to do this properly,” she said. “But this will be working with the same reading plan.”
Ascension Press, Joyce said, is working with the Juan Diego network, which won the 2020 OSV Innovation Challenge, to produce this podcast.
Joyce explained this will benefit parishes with both English-and-Spanish-speaking congregations.
“So communities and parishes will be able to do this in tandem, where everyone’s reading the same readings day to day,” she said.
She also said Ascension Press is seriously exploring another podcast concept: Catechism in a Year.
“This is the most-requested new offering from our listeners,” she said.
“Father Mike and Jeff have said they’re open to collaborating if we choose to move forward.”
Ascension Press also plans to hold a “Bible in the Year Virtual Event,” which will feature live talks, a live Q&A and live adoration, Feb. 18-20, 2022.
Joyce said the amount of Scripture podcast listeners read going through the podcast amounts to 6.2 full 24-hour days of Bible reading. And she said it gives an insight into why Ascension has seen such positive feedback from people “saying this podcast is changing my life.”
“If you spend that much time in God’s word,” she said, “he’s going to meet you there.”