By Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (OSV News) — In the film “Bruce Almighty,” a desperate Bruce Nolan (comedian Jim Carrey) calls out to God as he drives through the night.
“OK, God, you want me to talk to you? Talk back,” he says. “Tell me what’s going on. What should I do? Give me a signal. Send me a sign.”
A lighted construction traffic message board flashes “CAUTION AHEAD.”
A truck, full of road signs saying “STOP” and “WRONG WAY,” pulls in front of him. Bruce only grows more frustrated until … well, you’ll have to watch the movie for the rest of the story. The point being made to Bruce (and us) was this: God does send us messages and signs, but we can be too preoccupied to notice them.
For Lent this year, Catholics all over the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas are literally getting a message from God over their radios.
On more than eight commercial radio stations in the Greater Kansas City area and nine Catholic Radio Network stations, listeners can hear 30-second radio commercials in English and Spanish at various times inviting them to receive the sacrament of reconciliation (also known as confession and penance) at any archdiocesan parish 6-7 p.m. on Wednesdays during Lent.
The radio campaign began Feb. 25 and will end April 5.
Just a small clarification. The voice in the commercial is not God’s — it’s that of Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann. He’s relaying to us God’s message about the healing power of Jesus through the sacrament.
The archdiocese began its Lenten penance initiative in 2011. Although the campaign utilized a variety of means to communicate its message during the first few years, the initiative now relies exclusively on terrestrial (AM and FM non-satellite) radio.
“Archbishop Naumann and the (priests) council asked themselves how they could make the sacrament more available to people,” Deacon Bill Scholl told The Leaven, the archdiocesan newspaper. ([The ad campaign) was a way of inviting Catholics to go to confession in an intentional way. We wanted to reach out to people who weren’t necessarily in the habit of going. Archbishop Naumann is a big believer in welcoming people home.”
The commercials are heard on eight stations but aired on three or four stations a week on a rotating basis, said Mike Parsons, owner of Dash Media of Lenexa, who handled the commercial purchases and scheduling for the archdiocese.
On Saturdays and Sundays, the commercials run from 9 or 10 a.m. to 3 or 4 p.m. On Mondays through Tuesdays, they run from 6 a.m. through 7 p.m., and on Wednesdays, they run from 6 a.m. through 7 p.m. They do not air on Thursdays and Fridays.
The commercial stations cover a large part of the archdiocese. On the Catholic Radio Network, the commercials are aired free as a service to the archdiocese by the network’s three AM and six smaller FM translator stations.
Local AM and FM radio stations are effective means of getting the message out, according to Parsons.
“With local radio, you can listen in your car, but you can also get it digitally,” he said. “People can also listen to radio on their desktop or mobile phone with an app, which is kind of nice. The impression levels (the number of people reached with a single message) you’d get on local radio are higher than on Pandora or Spotify.”
The stations that run the commercials have a mix of formats: classic rock, country, news talk, top 40 or adult contemporary, and Spanish language. They reach a lot of different listener demographics, although the mix skews slightly to a male audience, said Parsons.
Across the country, the Diocese of Nashville, Tennessee, has been airing a Lenten program on Nashville Catholic Radio called “Raising a Catholic Family Today: Building a Domestic Church,” aimed at young couples and parents.
The six-week radio program celebrates “the goodness of the Catholic home life, the life of the domestic church,” according to program materials. “It is about the Catholic family and how to raise one in today’s cultural environment.”
John Bosio, former chairman of Catholic Media Productions and a parishioner of St. Stephen Catholic Community in Old Hickory, Tennesee, hosts the program along with Ron Fleitz, Nashville Catholic Radio volunteer host of “Around the Diocese” and “Faith in Business.”
The radio show is a companion program to Bosio’s book, “Raising a Catholic Family Today,” published in October 2022.
Each week, listeners of Nashville Catholic Radio hear a 27-minute broadcast featuring conversations between Fleitz and Bosio as well as pre-recorded interviews with 12 families representing seven churches across the Diocese of Nashville.
The topics of the six episodes have followed the chapters of Bosio’s book: “Our home is a sanctuary”; “Our home is the place where love resides”; “Our home is a school of prayer “; “Our home is an apprenticeship to loving”; “Our home is where we learn to live in God’s time”; and “Our home is a training camp for discipleship.”
“Nashville is a very transient community with young families who are disconnected from their spiritual roots, their families, and they’re left on their own to practice the faith. And many times you just drift without the support and accountability that parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles put on you to continue to practice,” Bosio told the Tennessee Register, Nashville’s diocesan newspaper.
“Without that, it’s easy to drift, and the problem is that leaves a whole generation of children without any formation in the faith,” he added.
It’s important to catch families “as they’re forming” and “try to give them some support,” he said, and the book and radio program aim to do that. “They encourage families to turn to their parishes to find the extended family they have left behind.”
Joe Bollig is a reporter at The Leaven, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Kansas City. Contributing to this story was Katie Peterson, a reporter with the Tennessee Register, newspaper of the Diocese of Nashville.