Father Robert Barron’s ‘Catholicism’ is a popular educational tool

SIMPSONVILLE—Members of St. Mary Magdalene Church are learning more about the faith through “Catholicism,” a 10-part documentary by author, theologian and teacher Father Robert Barron.

Father Barron is the founder of Word on Fire, an Illinois-based ministry dedicated to innovative Catholic evangelism through mass media. (www.wordonfire.org).

In an interview with Our Sunday Visitor, Father Barron said he came up with the idea for “Catholicism” because he wanted to use modern technology to show both the church’s vibrant history and why its teachings and message are important in today’s world.

He said it is especially important to get the message out now because many young people aren’t being evangelized, and the faith has taken a beating in popular culture in recent years because of the sexual abuse scandal in the U.S. and overseas.

“Catholicism” was filmed at 50 locations in 15 countries, and uses classic art, architecture, literature and music to illuminate church teachings.

Topics include the life and teachings of Jesus, the nature of God, good and evil, Mary, the 12 apostles, sacraments, the saints and prayer.

Episodes aired in November on EWTN, and some public television stations are showing them as well. A TV schedule and more information is available at www.catholicismseries.com.

Word on Fire developed a “Catholicism” study program so parishes could use the series for catechesis, and St. Mary Magdalene was one of the first to start using it in August, according to Peggy Pandaleon, director of marketing for Word on Fire. Other South Carolina parishes have begun using it too.

The Simpsonville sessions regularly draw 500 people each week, who watch one of the DVDs and then take part in group discussion, said Bob Kanto, a volunteer facilitator for the project.

The large parish has more than 2,900 households and needed a new way to provide adult faith formation to a lot of people at one time. The series fit the bill.

“It’s a phenomenal program,” Kanto said. “Father Barron offers an incredible breadth of information and intelligence, and he’s not preachy. He always simply teaches from a position of great knowledge and experience. The program is also very high quality, from the editing to the music. It’s very easy on the eye and ear, which is important.”

“It’s been an excellent program, and it has really given me a fresh look at the faith,” said Ron Kowalski of Simpsonville, a parish member who has attended all the sessions.

“It refreshes your knowledge of the faith, and gives some new insight on things, particularly in terms of belief in God, how Christ fulfilled the messianic message of the Bible, and the role of the church in carrying his message out in the world,” Kowalski said.