By ERIKA ANDERSON, Staff Writer | Published June 22, 2006
Those who were unable to attend this year’s Eucharistic Congress will have a unique opportunity to get a glimpse into the event, while those who attended will be able to relive their experience, thanks to the technology that makes it possible.
Inside the exhibitors area at the Georgia International Convention Center, Greg and Jennifer Willits sat at their booth, headphones on, recording the day’s events as visitors looked on curiously.
The Willitses, founders of the Rosary Army, based at their home in Conyers, host weekly podcasts for their Web site, rosaryarmy.com, and were commissioned by Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory to host Eucharistic Congress podcasts for the archdiocesan Web site.
For those less technologically savvy, podcasting is a sort of Internet radio show, a method of distributing multimedia files, such as audio programs, that can be played on mobile devices and personal computers. And soon, those podcasts from the June 17 Eucharistic Congress will be available on the Archdiocese of Atlanta Web site located at www.archatl.com.
Through the Rosary Army Web site, the Willitses have hosted over 70 podcasts, and Greg Willits is excited to have the opportunity to use his skills for the archdiocese.
“I’ve been hoping and praying that the Archdiocese of Atlanta would start a podcast,” he said. “Now that the interest is finally there, we’re incredibly honored that we are able to bring podcasting to the archdiocese.”
Throughout the Congress, the Willitses interviewed people, including several of the keynote speakers.
Jessica Handley, archdiocesan Webmaster and assistant communications director, said that Archbishop Gregory was very supportive of the idea of providing podcasts on the archdiocesan Web site.
“Podcasting is using technology to evangelize,” she said. “It’s a very accessible evangelization tool, and one more great way to reach people.”
One person who has truly learned the value of podcasting as a tool for evangelization is Father Roderick Vonhögen, a priest of the Archdiocese of Utrecht, in the Netherlands.
Father Vonhögen, one of the leading Catholic podcasters, hosts two internationally known podcasts, “Daily Breakfast” and “Catholic Insider,” both of which have over 15,000 subscribers. “Daily Breakfast” is a daily 30-minute show that contains music, entertainment, news, Catholic culture and interviews, while “Catholic Insider” consists of various documentaries.
Father Vonhögen came to the Eucharistic Congress as a guest of the Willitses, and several people came from other states just to meet him. One non-Catholic couple came from Nashville, Tenn., just to meet the priest.
In the Netherlands, Father Vonhögen, 38, is the only parish priest in four parishes.
“I’m not often bored,” he said. “But I really like to combine being involved in the media worldwide with my regular parish life. On Sundays I reach maybe 300 people with my homilies, but with ‘Daily Breakfast’ I reach as many as 15,000. It’s really unbelievable.”
The joy of meeting his many listeners was evident as Father Vonhögen walked around the Eucharistic Congress shaking hands and blessing rosaries. At one point, he wore a T-shirt over his clerics that read, “I’m the Catholic the devil warned you about.”
“The podcasts are great because it’s not just us preaching, but (I am able to share what I) think is cool. So maybe people listen to my movie reviews and get hooked on them, and then they also get the Catholic message,” he said.
Father Vonhögen created the StarQuest Podcast Network (SQPN) of which the Rosary Army podcasts are a part.
Also a member of SQPN is Paul Camarata, who hosts the weekly SaintCast podcast. Camarata, a Kansas City, Kan., neurosurgeon by day, offers profiles of various saints. He, too, visited the Eucharistic Congress and was able to meet some of his listeners.
Greg Willits said that with today’s advances in technology, podcasting is a great way to reach Catholics. The goal for the archdiocesan Eucharistic Congress podcasts is to premiere a new interview each week for the next several weeks, via the archdiocesan Web site.
“This is a huge diocese with a huge Catholic population,” he said. “And for such a big area, there is no Catholic radio. But here, if you have a computer, you have content.”