Broadcast to podcast to Godcast: Streaming faith to Catholic ears
WASHINGTON (CNS) If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear podcasts.
CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS LISTEN TO AN IPOD Rebecca Eads and Brian Smith of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park, Kan., share a listen on an iPod. Catholic broadcasters, publishers and even parishes have jumped on the podcasting trend with news, prayers, program information and scripture passages available for download. (CNS/The Leaven)
That seems to be today's adaptation of Jesus' familiar exhortation.Podcasts are recordings that are prepared with actual radio broadcast material with one pair of ears in mind rather than a mass audience. The new venues are computers and iPods, the wildly popular personal music storage system. The term podcasting is derived from the iPod name.
For one online Christian podcast directory, the most popular podcasts by far are by a Catholic priest, the late Father Al Lauer. Before he died four years ago, he had made a number of recordings before podcasts became all the rage.
A daily Scripture summary recorded by Father Lauer, who was the founder of Presentation Ministries in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, regularly gets more than 325 samplings, or "hits," a day on the Web site www.godcast1000.com. Listeners who have taken the time to rate it give it three stars out of a possible five.
Chris Jacek, webmaster for Presentation Ministries, said one of Father Lauer's first components of Presentation Ministries was a radio show. All of the tapes from close to 20 years of the show have been preserved, he added and are still available on cassette tape and compact disc formats.
"Because there's so many years of broadcasts, we have (recordings) for all days of the liturgical year," Jacek said. "Someone goes back to refurbish them. We cut and paste certain parts together to get the correct prayers for the day and the correct readings." Presentation Ministries makes five new podcasts a week from the archived material.
Jacek said he didn't expect Father Lauer's 15-minute podcasts to become so popular so quickly. "I'm a bit surprised, but that's a relatively new site, so we have about 300 or so listeners per podcast," he added. "About half of them are regular subscribers."
Other Catholic-related podcasts in the top 100 of Godcast1000.com's sites and their rankings include:
- Catholic Family Podcast, 37th with 12 hits a day. It bills itself as "family life viewed from the right." No ratings have been given by listeners.
- Meditations from Carmel, 60th with 6.4 hits a day, and a five-star rating from listeners. A Carmelite community produces them using, in their words, "the treasury of writings of the great Carmelite saints including St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross (and) St. Therese of Lisieux."
- St. Michael's RCIA Podcast, 67th with 5.5 hits a day and a five-star rating as well. Produced by St. Michael Parish in Cranford, N.J., the podcast mixes scripture passages, religious music and reflections on the daily readings. RCIA stands for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.
Of the 685 podcasts listed on the site, the Eternal Word Television Network's podcast was ranked 679th, and still waiting for its first listener. A closer look reveals, though, that every Godcast1000.com podcast ranked 155th or lower has yet to be heard. In fairness, EWTN's podcasts have been offered in MP3 format at its own Web site, www.ewtn.com, for nearly a year.
While some Catholic newspapers have prepared audio recordings of their material for the blind and made them available on radio subchannels or on cassettes or compact discs, podcasts can bring an additional audience. The newspapers of the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kan., and the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., have inaugurated podcasts on their Web sites www.theleaven.com and www.diocesefwsb.org/TODAY/podcast.htm, respectively.
Today's Catholic, the Fort Wayne-South Bend paper, kicked off its podcast in September. With such events as the diocese's 150th anniversary and a eucharistic congress ahead, "we think it is very crucial to share the news through this exciting new technology," said a statement from editor Tim Johnson.
It's taking time for the Today's Catholic podcast to get its sea legs in a virtual flood of podcasts. The number of listeners on the diocesan Web site totaled 673 as of Sept. 26, Johnson said, but "in terms of popularity, all the bars came all the way across."
Podcasting, already a popular innovation at Vatican Radio, offers an important new way for pastors to reach contemporary Christians through their digital jukeboxes, the influential Jesuit magazine La Civilta Cattolica said last year.
The U.S. bishops' Catholic Communication Campaign plans to make the four radio programs it sponsors available for podcast and MP3 downloads to expand the shows' audience.
Bustedhalo.com is also a popular site for faith-related podcasts.
In England, the Jesuits garnered 3,300 prayer session downloads March 1, the very first day of their podcast link at www.pray-as-you-go.org in countries as far away as Australia, Mexico and the United States.
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Copyright (c) 2007 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
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