Pope Francis holds a zucchetto presented by Auxiliary Bishop Robert P. Reed of Boston during an "ad limina" visit to the Vatican in this file photo from Nov. 8, 2019. OSV News photo/courtesy Vatican Media, CNS
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Bishop Robert P. Reed is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Boston, pastor of St. Patrick and Sacred Heart parishes in Watertown, Massachusetts, and president of the CatholicTV network. He grew up in Swampscott, Massachusetts, and prepared for the priesthood at St. John's Seminary in Boston, and the Pontifical North American College in Rome. Though he describes himself as an "awkward and quiet" sort of fellow, Charlie Camosy nevertheless had some fun getting to know Bishop Reed (and discovering his favorite Marvel superhero) for OSV News readers.
Charlie Camosy: You are an auxiliary bishop in Boston. Not all readers may be familiar with the concept of an auxiliary bishop, much less what such a bishop does. How does it work for you?
Bishop Reed: Oftentimes a larger diocese is granted an additional bishop or bishops to assist in the ministry of the ordinary, the bishop of a particular local church. I'm one of three active auxiliary bishops in Boston, and all of us act in different ways to represent and support Cardinal Seán (O'Malley), the current archbishop of Boston.
For my part, I am assigned to oversee the 64 parishes that comprise the west region of the archdiocese. I am assisted in this work by four priests, and my responsibilities include celebrating confirmations and the installations of new pastors, caring for the priests, their collaborators, and the people of the region when difficulties or challenges arise. I am the pastor of two of those parishes in the west region -- St. Patrick and Sacred Heart in Watertown, Massachusetts.
Additionally, I am the CEO of iCatholic Media, Inc., a nonprofit which includes the Boston Pilot, America's oldest catholic newspaper; a bulletin company; a printing company; and The CatholicTV Network, of which I am the president.
Camosy: That sounds almost daunting. You're very busy!
Bishop Reed: It does sound daunting, but I'm surrounded by incredibly committed and bright individuals; each assignment I consider to be a team effort. Beyond my responsibilities in Boston, I also serve on several committees for the USCCB, and currently I am the chairman of the Committee for Communications.
Camosy: Talk a little bit about CatholicTV, which sounds like it would take a lot of time.
Bishop Reed: CatholicTV operates seven days a week, 24 hours a day, thanks to a small but capable staff of 30. We bring the Mass and the rosary, the Divine Mercy chaplet, along with morning prayer, evening prayer and compline to our viewers each day. Our daily schedule also includes many series and productions to help people grow in their Catholic faith. During the pandemic, we were well positioned to support people through those difficult months and years. All our programming is available in various markets across the country on cable and broadcast, as well as our website, CatholicTV.com, and channels on all the popular platforms, such as Roku, Apple TV, Samsung Smart TVs and Fire TV. We also have a robust YouTube channel at YouTube.com/CatholicTV.
Camosy: Based in part on your experience with Catholic TV, how do you view our current moment in media in the U.S., and how best can Catholic individuals and entities enter those spaces?
Bishop Reed: In close collaboration with our team, I have been attempting to take the CatholicTV network on to the next step. In this work, I feel it important to approach the production and dissemination of media in a professional manner that accurately reflects the teaching and the mission of the church, but while always bearing in mind that the church exists in the communion of a parish, not on a screen! Whether a TV series, a blog entry, a podcast or a tweet, the church song from the sixties provides good advice, that "they'll know we are Christians by our love."
Camosy: OK, let's get away from the professional bishop stuff for a bit and get to know you as a person. Can you tell us a bit about the story of how you became a priest? How did you discern that call?
Bishop Reed: When I was a boy, I was blessed to belong to a very active Catholic parish, and I attended the parish school from kindergarten to the eighth grade. It really was a second home for me, and the priests and the Sisters of St. Joseph who staffed the school were just terrific. There is no doubt that my vocation was cultivated during those years of being surrounded by good examples and a vibrant parochial life.
In high school, I began the habit of stopping at my parish church (which was always open), to sit before the tabernacle -- "making a visitation," we used to call it. Little did I know it then, but I was engaging myself in a Holy Hour, a practice which is still a part of my daily prayer routine. I have no doubt that prayer before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament was a determining factor in my decision to enter the seminary. I believe many priests and seminarians would agree.
Camosy: What might readers be surprised to learn that you actually like about being a bishop?
Bishop Reed: Well, I like to be busy, and my present life is very full and interesting. Of course, there are many problems and issues that need to be addressed, but I particularly enjoy being able to experience the church in various pastoral situations and see how my brother priests, deacons, lay staff and parishioners work together to build up the life of the local church. There are so many unsung heroes in our parishes and schools and institutions.
Interestingly, I appreciate being called "Father" by the people in the parishes where I serve. When it happens, people are often apologetic, but I tell them that, for me, "Father" is a term of endearment. When I was younger, I wanted to be a parish priest, and even though I am a bishop, I enjoy being the "father" of a community and for good example, I watch the dads in my parish very closely.
Also, I deeply appreciate the opportunity to distribute Communion and to hear confessions. There's something about the reality of giving Jesus to another person, particularly when you have come to know the struggles of their life and family. And it brings me great joy to be able to pronounce the words of absolution and allow the Lord to free a person from their sins, so they can get up and begin again. I go to confession a lot because, as much as possible, I want to be in the state of grace when at the altar and in the confessional.
Camosy: What does Bishop Reed do for fun? Favorite movies, TV shows, music? How can we get more insight into this part of who you are?
Bishop Reed: Well, I enjoy escaping to Dunkin' Donuts, to work and read. I find the atmosphere to be different and relaxing enough that I can really get things done! At night, I watch a lot of movies and series on TV, and I've been a devout Boston Bruins fan since junior high. I like to drive, and my odometer is proof of that. In good weather, I enjoy a long walk on the beach. I'm also a huge Spider-Man fan.
Camosy: I have to ask: Why Spider-Man? What is it about Peter Parker's story that intrigues you?
Bishop Reed: I have a similar personality to Peter Parker -- a bit goofy, awkward, quiet, etc. But over and over again, God has allowed his grace to work through me, nonetheless.
Camosy: Your Wikipedia page says that you are "a knight commander of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem." That sounds really cool. Please tell me it means you get to ride a horse in cool Catholic places.
Bishop Reed: Well, I did nothing to earn that rank; it's given to all bishops. But I am a proud member of the Knights, and it is my understanding that if I wished, I could freely ride a horse into the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which boasts of both Calvary and Jesus' tomb. I'll be in the Holy Land this fall, but I don't think I'll be riding any horses! Nonetheless, the support that the Equestrian Order has for both the shrines and Christian people living in the Holy Land is extraordinary.
CHARLIE CAMOSY IS PROFESSOR OF MEDICAL HUMANITIES AT THE CREIGHTON SCHOOL OF MEDICINE AND MORAL THEOLOGY FELLOW AT ST. JOSEPH SEMINARY IN NEW YORK.