[Note: I have already written this blog entry once, but when I went to post it my computer froze up and I lost the whole entry. That was last night, and after a night of not speaking to my computer, my anger has abated. So here's my second attempt.]
My life is getting back to normal after my Rome trip. My formerly dirty clothes are clean and put away. The things that friends asked me to buy for them have been (or are in the process of being) delivered to them. The gifts I bought for people have been handed out. The pile of mail that built up while I was away has been sorted, read, tossed, and the bills paid. I'm just about back to staying up until my normal bedtime and I'm waking up at my normal wake-up time. I suppose I'm as normal as I'm ever going to be. So now I can write this blog.
While I was away, the man who is the engineer for my radio show, Al Femia, had some health issues. He's had some health concerns in the last year or so, but now they're getting serious. The bottom line is that his doctor advised him not to work anymore, so while I was way he decided to leave the diocese's employ. While sad, Al's departure shouldn't have been a major problem, because there's another employee of the diocese who has been working on the radio show alongside Al for about a year. She's at every recording session, and she's become quite the expert in editing and producing the show. So "momentary sadness, but life goes on", right? Uh, no.
When I returned from Rome I was informed that the diocese has decided that, not only aren't they planning on hiring any replacement for Al, but that they are stopping the funding for the airtime we buy on one of the two secular stations the show airs (WCTC 1450AM), and they want to stop broadcasting the show on the other secular radio station (AM1470 WSAN) and the Ave Maria radio network in Michigan. While no one has technically said, "We're ending the radio show", you obviously can't have a radio show without being on the radio. I was told that I could continue to make shows for eventual broadcast when the diocese updates its website to allow for on-demand streaming audio, but I've been begging them to do this for four years, and still it's not accomplished (that's why I purchased the Podbean account last July).
In my humble opinion (to use an analogy), the radio show has been denied nutrition and hydration, and I cannot see continuing the show in a "persistent, vegetative state." So, as best as I can tell, I think the deathwatch has begun for Proclaim the Good News.
I'm proud of what was accomplished in the four years and four months that I served as the show's host. The show aired on both the eastern and western side of the diocese, as opposed to just the eastern side when I began. For that I have to thank my parish's Holy Name Society, as well as the parish itself, for paying for the airtime. When I began, we couldn't do telephone interviews because we didn't have the technology. Starting about three years ago with Father Kevin Lixey of the Vatican's Office on Church and Sport, we used telephone interviews to bring the universal Catholic Church into our local diocesan show. For that, I send a big "thank you" to people like Their Eminences Avery Cardinal Dulles and Josef Cardinal Tomko, Archbishop John Foley (recently named by Pope Benedict to the College of Cardinals, though probably not because of my interview), Fathers Benedict Groschel, Joseph Fessio, and Fred Miller, Catholic apologists Jeff Cavins, Scott Hahn, and Steve Ray, actor Jon Voight, former Florida Marlins manager Jack McKeon, and all the other people who took time out of their lives to be interviewed on PGN.
Early on in my time as host and moderator of the show, I was asked to come up with one of those "mission statements" for the show. While mission statements often make me throw up a little in my mouth, it did force me to read the document "Inter Mirifica", the first decree issued by the Second Vatican Council, on the topic of social communications. Paragraph fourteen says that "Ample encouragement should be given to Catholic transmissions which invite listeners ... to share in the life of the Church and which convey religious truths." Could the Council Fathers, in 1963, have foreseen things like iPods and the Internet? Heck no. I'm sure they thought radio and television were the final frontier, but science and technology have given us a whole "undiscovered country" ripe for the New Evangelization. The potential is endless: on demand Catholic Apologetics; literally getting the Church's message into the ears of people. That's wild.
In 1998, when I was ordained, I never thought I'd work on a radio show. My friend and the show's former host, Fr. Guy Selvester, brought me in because he could call me the night before and say, "Let's do a show tomorrow about what the Pope said in his new encyclical." He'd come up with the questions, and I'd do a "cram study" session in an effort to learn what the Pope actually said! Well, I hope I've done my part to give my listeners shows that taught them something new with each episode.
What about me? Well, I'm still a Priest at a 1,900 family parish, and there's Masses and confessions and funerals and hospital visits, as well as both adult education and RCIA once a week. The more I think about it, the more I like Job's way of handling life's curveballs: "The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the Lord." I'll figure out what to do with the Podbean site, and what to do with the time I used to put into arranging for guests, writing scripts, and taping the interviews. I remember Johnny Carson's exit line on his last episode as host of The Tonight Show: "I hope, in the future, if I find something new to do that excites me, that you'll be as gracious as you've been in letting me into your homes." Ditto.