Christ told his apostles to go forth and teach all nations. Pope John Paul II spoke of the New Evangelization. In the documents of the Second Vatican Council the Bishops spoke of many things, but three important issues that they discussed were Catholic Education, Evangelization, and Ecumenism. The Bishops said every Catholic should know as much about his or her faith as possible. They said that Evangelization – bringing all persons to Christ – is the primary mission of the Church. They said that wherever possible, Catholics should work with people of good will of other faiths - Ecumenism. The Bishops also urged the use of modern means of communication, such as radio, TV, and Internet, for Education and to spread Christ’s Gospel message throughout the world. Catholic Media Productions (CMP) addresses all of these issues.
Catholic Media Productions (CMP) began as a kind of "providential accident". In 1986, a lady who had a great devotion to the Blessed Mother was airing a show on WNQM, a gospel station in Nashville, Tennessee. In her presentation she made the Blessed Mother a kind of 4th person of the Blessed Trinity, and listeners began calling the station to complain.
Looking for help, I (the General Manager of WNQM), called St. Mary’s Church in Nashville. I asked the Pastor, Fr. James Miller, if he would be willing to come out to the station and do a few programs on the role of the Blessed Mother in the Catholic Church. Fr. Miller declined the offer, but suggested that I call Mr. James Walsh, a Catholic deacon who was working as an Assistant District Attorney.
After graduating from Vanderbilt University Law School, Walsh had practiced law in Nashville for a few years. He then attended the Jesuit-run Institute of Lay Theology at the University of San Francisco. The Institute of Lay Theology was the "brain child" of a Jesuit priest, Eugene Zimmers, whose idea was to train Catholic laymen to assist the Church in the field of evangelization. The graduates of the Institute were called Inquiry Forum Directors or Lay Theologians. They were to give instruction on the Catholic faith to persons who were considering becoming Catholic. After completing this course in theology, Walsh had been awarded a Master’s Degree in applied theology. He was assigned to St. Michael’s Church in Memphis, Tennessee when Fr. Miller was serving there as an Assistant Pastor. Fr. Miller therefore knew that Jim Walsh would be an ideal person to fill my request for a theologian to speak on WNQM.
Walsh had spent 13 years working for the Catholic Church before returning to the practice of law in Nashville and joining the District Attorney’s staff. In the intervening years, he had been ordained a Deacon for the Diocese of Nashville. Deacon Walsh accepted my invitation and asked Mr. Dan Hamm, a fellow attorney at the DA’s office, to come to the station and ask questions about the Blessed Mother.
The initial complaint by some of the Fundamentalist Ministers airing programs on WNQM, was that Catholics should not be on the air of a Christian Radio Station, because Catholics were not Christians! Walsh and Hamm were able to convince these Ministers, through the radio program, that Catholics were, in fact, Christians! The experience also convinced Walsh that there was a great need for this type of program.
After a few shows, Hamm told Deacon Walsh that he should find someone to take his place who would be able to expand the discussion and give the show a more legitimate feel. Tom Shriver, the Nashville District Attorney with whom Walsh worked, had a brother, Dr. Richard Shriver, who was a United Methodist Minister and Professor of Theology at a local university. Deacon Walsh knew that Dr. Shriver had done some radio and TV shows locally and asked if he would be interested in helping him out with one show. Dr. Shriver agreed. Walsh and Shriver were long-time friends and got along well on the air - and Shriver became the "permanent guest." As a Protestant, he was in a good position to understand and interpret what questions Protestants have about the Catholic faith.
Realizing that the free airtime would not go on forever, Deacon Walsh asked me how much it would cost to broadcast a weekly show. The price seemed reasonable, so Walsh went to Fr. William Bevington at St. Henry’s Church, Nashville, where Walsh was serving as a Deacon, and asked for help. Fr. Bevington discussed the matter with his Parish Pastoral Council, and St. Henry’s Parish became the sponsor providing financial support for the program.
Deacon Walsh and Dr. Shriver called the program, We Believe, and applied for and received from the State of Tennessee a Charter as a Non-profit corporation. The Bishop of Nashville agreed to serve as the Honorary Chairman of the Corporation. Bishop David Choby, present Bishop of Nashville, now serves in this capacity. So we can say that Catholic Media Productions and the We Believe program were born as a result of some favorable circumstances, theological ignorance, ecclesiastical buck-passing, the kindness of a Pastor and his Parish Council, the support of the local Bishop, and the natural talent for radio by James Walsh.
Over the years Deacon Walsh and Dr. Shriver have produced over 600 thirty-minute radio shows on the basic teachings of the Catholic Faith (many of which are available on CDs and cassettes). Deacon Walsh has explained the teaching of the Catholic Church and Dr. Shriver has responded with a Protestant perspective. Usually they agree, although they often arrive at the same conclusion from different directions. When they disagree, which is rare, they do so as friends and go on to the next subject. In the overall feel of the show, it becomes clear that Catholics and Protestants have a lot more in common than most people realize.
We Believe became a fixture on Christian radio broadcasting and an important platform in bridging the understanding between Catholics and Protestants. The radio shows are now playing on several stations in the United States as well as two international overseas shortwave radio stations. These international stations reach into Asian countries such as China, Korea, Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines. Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Ocean Rim are also included. Listeners in Europe and Africa receive We Believe on a weekly basis. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people have heard and are now hearing an explanation of the Catholic Faith from an ecumenical point of view. Some people have described We Believe as an effort to “sweep away the cobwebs of misunderstanding” that surround the image of the Catholic Faith in the minds of many people. As a result, the programs might be described as “pre-evangelization.” It is only when these misunderstandings are “swept away” that people can appreciate the warmth and beauty of the Faith.
In addition to their series of radio shows, Deacon Walsh and Dr. Shriver also produced a Review Series called “Commuter Catechetics,” which is a set of the 16 thirty-minute programs on 8 CDs or cassettes designed to be a condensed version of 60 thirty-minute radio shows. The CDs and cassettes have proved popular for people who want to listen to the topical discussions while commuting to and from work. The programs provide a nice overview of the major points of the Catholic Faith, all of which can be covered in a few weeks driving time.
As the We Believe radio show grew in popularity, Deacon Walsh and Dr. Shriver were asked if they would appear on Nashville Community Access TV. They agreed and are producing 60 thirty-minute TV shows (and DVDs) on the same material covered by the radio shows.
With the help of the Knights of Columbus - local Nashville Council 544 and other Councils throughout the state - Catholic Media Productions has completed 26 professionally produced TV programs. These shows have won “Best Talk Show” and “Best Religious Programming” at the Community Access Festival held yearly in the Southeast. In July of 2007 Catholic Media Productions received national honors for the programs at the Alliance for Community Media International Conference held in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
With the help of the Tennessee State Council of the Knights of Columbus under the leadership of Mr. Marty O’Haver, the past Tennessee State Deputy, Catholic Media Productions is now launching a National Campaign to place these programs on Community Access Stations throughout the U.S.A., by working with local Councils in the 50 states. The launching of the National Campaign took place at the International Knights of Columbus Convention held in Nashville, Tennessee in August, 2007.
The future of exposing Catholic theology to U.S.A. non-Catholics and to other countries has never looked brighter. Catholic organizations and individuals are encouraged to participate in this worldwide movement by investing financially in this much needed radio and TV ministry. The We Believe ministry is currently a 501 (c) 3 non-profit corporation from which donations are tax deductible. I (George McClintock), am available to assist you in any way possible with information or personal references so you may comfortably give financial assistance to We Believe. I have been able to see the Hand of God throughout the history of this program. I pray that you will, too.
George McClintock 615-352-8682, Cell (615) 973-4668; K4BTY@ARRL.NET