Local parish uses TV to witness to the word

WEYMOUTH -- A local Catholic parish is spreading the faith through television, addressing various issues and events in and around the local Catholic Community.

For 19 years, Immaculate Conception parish in Weymouth has been producing "Witnessing the Word," taping two half-hour episodes each month, which air six times a week for two weeks. Keith Labresh 19-year producer of the TV show, said a staff of eight, including the pastor Father William Salmon, produce the show now.

Inspiration came when a Methodist church extended an invitation to Immaculate Conception Parish 19 years ago, Labresh said.

"Actually one of our previous pastors received a letter from a church in Weymouth asking us if we would like to be on their show," he said. "We were the only church, protestant or Catholic church, in town that responded."

"I said, 'Let's do it!' So we did it, and we caught fire ourselves," Labresh, then parish business manager, said. "We said, 'Gee, this is a great idea'; so then we started the show."

Twenty five people have participated on the production end, as the roster of parish volunteers changed over the years.

The show takes the form of an interview with three cameras available to the producers. Up to three guests can appear on camera at a time, as the set includes a desk with three seats. Additional guests rotate in.

In advance, guests are asked to provide a list of people who will appear on camera, a list of props -- posters, signs, etc. --to be seen with the guests, and a list of questions for the interviewer to ask the guests.

Guests create and email the show questions themselves. Sending a brief summary of the topic for discussion helps the producers prepare to address the subject matter.

"The show goes very quickly and the guests -- our guests -- talk, and they may at the end say, 'Oh my gosh! I meant to say something about this or that.' We don't go back and edit this thing, or we weren't doing it at that time, so early on we decided to ask people to write the questions on the things they wanted to talk about."

"It doesn't exclude our questions, or anything else that the guests may want to bring in, but we make sure we cover everything that they want to talk about."

According to the email, topics include Immaculate Conception parish events, community events involving Immaculate Conception parishioners, events at other parishes, and archdiocesan activities.

Once the show is prepared and shot, Father Salmon helps the producers coordinate publicity through the parish bulletin and those of the other four parishes in town. He also advises the staff and helps them coordinate for the show.

Previous episodes addressed the 2010 annual Justice Convocation, Catholics Come Home, and most recently an episode featuring Marianne Luthin of Project Rachel in Natick. She said she enjoyed the opening segment of the show.

"The intro includes a beautiful invitation for people to come to church on Sunday and consider being involved in the parish," she said, in an email. "It's a great form of media evangelization."

Pope John Paul II -- who, according to biographer George Weigel, appeared in more forms of media than anyone else in history -- saw the media and the interconnected world it can create in a similar way.

"Using the media correctly and competently can lead to a genuine enculturation of the Gospel," John Paul II said, in the apostolic exhortation "Ecclesia in America."

"It's a real plus, where we get a chance to meet people, and we get a chance to publicize the work of a lot of good things," Labresh said.

Near the end of his interview with The Pilot, Labresh invited readers interested in doing a similar show for their parish to contact him at kmlabresh@comcast.net with any questions.

You can watch the show on Weymouth Community Access Cable Channel 10 at 10 a.m. and 7 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.