German Catholic delegates visit Boston to learn about new media

Pilot editor Antonio Enrique shows Cardinal Seán’s Blog to Bishop Gebhard Furst of the Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart (sitting) as Michael Hertl (standing), a member of the bihop’s delegation, and Terrence C. Donilon, archdiocesan spokesman, look on. Bishop Furst led a delegation of Catholic German representatives as they visited several North American dioceses to learn how they integrate media into the Church’s mission. Pilot Photo/Gregory L. Tracy

BRAINTEE -- A German delegation, led by the bishop of the Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, visited the United States and Canada to investigate how the Church incorporates the media into its mission, specifically in regard to television, radio and the Web.

While in Boston, the delegation met with The Pilot and CatholicTV representatives Sept. 4-5.

At their meeting with The Pilot, the conversation centered on how the newspaper is embracing new media outlets, such as its Web site and Cardinal Seán’s Blog, which is posted weekly by Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley.

“The cardinal has done a very impressive job with his blog, the way he includes his entries and the pictures,” said Bishop Gebhard Furst, who is the chairman of the German bishops’ media commission, which is researching ways to use new media to improve communication with the faithful of that country.

“The blog is a good thing for getting the people information about the cardinal and about the Church.”

Pilot editor Antonio Enrique showed the delegation a typical post of Cardinal Seán’s Blog. Enrique also showed the bishop how the content in the newspaper and articles from the Catholic News Service are loaded onto TheBostonPilot.com.

In this way, Enrique demonstrated how a unified platform is created, which results in the print and digital outlets mutually promoting readership.

Another example of integration is the weekly e-mail sent to more than 10,000 addresses combining the Web edition of the paper with Cardinal Seán’s Blog, and information on CatholicTV programming. The cardinal’s blog receives more than 25,000 unique visits every week.

Bishop Furst said it was clear that there was much for him and his delegation to learn. “The Catholic Church in America is far ahead of the Church in Germany in the use of the print, the Web and, especially, in the use of television. It has made great progress. That is the reason I have come here.”

The delegation also visited the CatholicTV studios in Watertown.

“Boston Catholic television is recognized as one of the best, if not the best, stations, so I wanted to see where they make these programs,” Bishop Furst said.

The bishop and other clergy in their delegation celebrated Mass with Father Robert P. Reed, the director of BCTV. The Mass was broadcast over the Web on both CatholicTV and the Rottenburg-Stuttgart Diocese Web site, where it is archived for future viewing.

Father Reed said he asked if they had come to any conclusions from their trip and they told him they wanted to let everything percolate for a while.

“They did say that they were surprised the cardinal had such confidence in all of us to use technology to transmit the message of Christ.”

“It was a wonderful visit,” said Jay Fadden, the general manager of Boston Catholic Television and one of its on-air personalities.

“They were very curious about what we do and they are trying to imitate what we do here in Germany.”

Fadden said the delegation had questions about the business side of running a 24/7 broadcast schedule. “They were surprised that we were able to do it here with such a reduced staff.”

Boston was the last leg of a three-city tour that included Toronto and New York City.

In Toronto, the delegation visited Salt + Light Television, Canada’s national Catholic television network.

Father Thomas Rosica, BSO, CEO of Salt + Light said the network is a direct product of the national reawakening of the Church in Canada sparked by Toronto’s 2002 World Youth Day, which he supervised. It was also there that he befriended Bishop Furst, a relationship that continued as the priest served as a consultant for Cologne’s World Youth Day in 2005.

“We did not advise the German bishops’ conference to start their own network, which is what they were proposing,” Father Thomas said. “Instead, we recommended that they create a lay foundation and staff it with high quality lay people like we have here at Salt + Light.”

As part of their visit to New York City, the delegation visited the TeleCare studios on Long Island, the television production facility of Rockville Center Diocese, and the Catholic Channel at Sirius satellite radio during the broadcast of its “Seize the Day with Gus Lloyd” program, the bishop said.

One of the producers of the show gave the delegation a tour of the dozens of studios, he said. “We could see all of the people doing their shows through the glass.”

In addition to learning about the operations, the bishop was interested in the American talk radio format, which he was not familiar with and is relatively unknown in Germany, Emily J. Marlow, a producer for ‘‘Seize the Day’’ said. “He was surprised that someone could just talk for four hours straight without music.”

The bishop and the members of the delegation were interested in how call-in programs can be used to share and discuss the faith, she said.

Bishop Furst said the Catholic Channel broadcast his homily at the Aug. 31 Mass he celebrated at Midtown’s St. Patrick Cathedral.

The bishop said he will take back with him many important lessons from his trip.

Looking back on his visit, Bishop Furst said he found engaged, active and youthful teams. “They are prayerful, and very professional, too. It is a great thing for the Church.”

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