September 4, 2020

Evangelization and Catechesis Supplement

‘Cold brews’ and YouTube views combine to help bring people closer to God

Sean Hussey, coordinator of evangelization and discipleship for the archdiocese, shares his love of his faith on his podcast, “Cold Brews and Catholic Truths.” (Submitted photo)

Sean Hussey, coordinator of evangelization and discipleship for the archdiocese, shares his love of his faith on his podcast, “Cold Brews and Catholic Truths.” (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

When Sean Hussey started his podcast “Cold Brews and Catholic Truths” six months ago, he began to understand firsthand how different forms of social media could touch the lives of people in matters of faith.

After seeing one of Hussey’s online presentations, a man contacted him, sharing the impact the podcast had made.

“He was doubting the Catholic Church and considering leaving,” recalls Hussey, coordinator of evangelization and discipleship for the archdiocese. “YouTube suggested one of my videos to him, and it totally made sense to him and just re-convicted him in his faith.”

Father Jonathan Meyer has received similar feedback after he and his staff ramped up the social media outreach of All Saints Parish in Dearborn County in March when the coronavirus pandemic led to the suspension of the public celebration of Masses across the country.

The parish’s YouTube presence now offers daily Masses, daily holy hours, motivational videos and youth programming—leading its number of subscribers to grow from 14,000 to more than 26,600 in the past six months, and reaching an audience that includes at least one follower from Turkey.

“We wanted to help people keep their faith alive while our churches were closed,” Father Meyer says. “People responded so well, and we wanted to continue it.

“I can preach the Gospel to the people in my pews. By turning a camera on, I can preach the Gospel not just to those who are within the four walls of the church, but the internet makes it accessible to all nations. It allows the preaching, the teaching and the authentic worship to nourish, inspire and invite those who are not within the four walls.”

Hussey and Father Meyer know the power and the potential that different forms of social media—YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, blogs, podcasts—have in terms of sharing the faith, introducing people to the Catholic Church and helping them deepen their relationship with God.

They know the commitment it takes for parishes to create outreach that connects with people.

They also share a major caveat about the use of social media.

‘Cold Brews and Catholic Truths’

Hussey’s idea for his podcast “Cold Brews and Catholic Truths” came from three joys of his life: beer, coffee and especially his Catholic faith.

“The whole concept of the title is that if I could sit down with you, no matter what you believe, and have a conversation about the Catholic faith over a beer or coffee, these are some of the things I’d want to share with you. And I’d do it in a way that’s reverent and charitable toward you.

“I do my own talks on there and invite different guests. I think the world view that Catholicism puts forth is something that any person can see the clarity and the consistency of. The podcast is about spreading and defending the Catholic faith. I want to give other Catholics the confidence to do it as well.”

As coordinator of evangelization and discipleship for the archdiocese, Hussey wants to help parish leaders develop more effective ways—including the use of social media—to connect with people who are both inside and outside the Catholic faith.

“We do want our parishes to have some kind of presence with the new media, or at the very least with their website. That can be an opportunity to connect with people on the outside. We want to orient what we do toward the outside, not just those who are already committed. If someone stumbled upon a website, whether they’re Catholic or not, would it be for them? Would the new person be able to navigate their way?”

Hussey views social media as an avenue “where we can bring the message of Jesus Christ in different ways,” especially to young people who are so connected to technology.

“It’s a place where we can be a little more intentional as Christians. We can do it in small ways if we are already using social media in our life. How can we find opportunities to share out stories, share ways in which Christ has impacted our lives? If people come across something that’s intriguing, if they’re captivated by beauty or a story, that could be a starting point for folks to consider a little more their faith.”

“I wanted to get back to God’

Father Meyer began his focus on social media in 2009, posting “positive, encouraging” messages on Facebook. At All Saints Parish, he leads a digital outreach that also now includes Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

“That’s where people are spending their time,” Father Meyer says. “The goal of evangelization is to preach the Gospel to all nations. Our goal is to put content out there that would have people encounter the Lord.”

The parish’s content on YouTube has made a dramatic impact on the faith of Barbara Jean Del Pino, a resident of Miami, Fla.

“I had really lost my way, but with everything that happened with the pandemic, a lot of us were thinking about the things we haven’t done, things that made us reflect on our lives,” she says. “I wanted to get back to God. I wanted to get back to church. I was going through YouTube, and I found one of Father Meyer’s homilies. I loved his homilies, and I started watching more and more. Thanks to Father Meyer, I’m so much closer to God and my faith.”

Richard Cowart follows Father Meyer as he drives farm equipment near his home in Durham, N.C.

“I’m not even Catholic,” Cowart says, adding that Father Meyer’s homilies have increased his desire to enter the Church.

“When you go out on the Web, you reach far more than a 10-mile radius, far more than the people who are comfortable with you,” Father Meyer says. “Our goal is to look at where people are broken, hurt and in need. You get some haters, but you also get people who are genuinely looking for Christ.”

He’s so committed to the social media approach that All Saints recently created a new position at the parish—coordinator of electronic evangelization.

“If you’re going to do this, you have to have skilled people to do it,” he says. “If we’re going to bring Christ to them, it needs to be done well.”

‘It’s all about making disciples’

As effective as social media can be in leading people to God and the Catholic faith, Father Meyer and Hussey both believe that outreach approach should never end there.

In making that point, Hussey refers to a comment made by Father Michael (“Mike”) Schmitz, a priest in the Diocese of Duluth, Minn., who has a large following online.

“I think there are some really cool things that the new media can do,” Hussey says. “But I would say—and this is actually something I‘ve heard Father Mike Schmitz say—we should not really be considering evangelizing through the new media if we’re not first willing to evangelize in our everyday life.

“If we’re not willing to talk to the people around us about our faith when those opportunities present themselves, we probably shouldn’t be sharing about it in this public platform.”

The true power of the use of social media comes in the sharing, Hussey says.

“They might share my podcast, or they might share a Father Mike Schmitz video or a Bishop Robert Baron video with somebody. That’s going to hold a lot more weight because they have a relationship with that person. They have an opportunity to talk to them more about it.”

Father Meyer encourages his All Saints parishioners and his online followers to do the same—to meet people where they are, to share their faith personally at every turn.

“It’s all about making disciples,” the priest says. “A disciple is one who knows the Lord. They know him intimately. It’s my hope and my goal that they’re going to go out and make disciples of Christ.”

(To listen to Sean Hussey’s podcasts, visit www.seanhussey.org.
Father Jonathan Meyer can be followed on these social media outlets:
YouTube: All Saints Parish-We Are One 
Instagram: @allsaintsparishin  
@word.up8
Twitter: @AllParish
Facebook: @allsaintsparish1) †


Podcasts worth checking out

As the coordinator of evangelization and discipleship for the archdiocese, Sean Hussey knows the power and the potential of social media to help move people closer to God and their Catholic faith. Here are five of his favorite podcasts/YouTube channels that he recommends:

• Ask Fr. Josh (podcast)

• The Counsel of Trent (podcast)

• Pints with Aquinas (podcast and YouTube Channel)

• Fr. Michael (Mike) Schmitz on Ascension Presents (YouTube Channel)

• The Catholic Talk Show (podcast and YouTube Channel)

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