Sunday to Sunday: Behind the Scenes
Since January of 2015, I’ve authored the francisfactor.com.” These one hundred and more entries include weekly sermons, occasional essays, press briefings and background on texts by Pope Francis.
In his “Joy of the Gospel” Pope Francis addresses the need of good preaching in the service of the Gospel and evangelization.
As a new feature to the website, I’ve developed a video program entitled “Sunday to Sunday.” The goal here is to interview and to bring attention to the inspired preaching of highly accomplished Catholic preachers.
To date, I have three “pilot episodes” for your viewing. My goal for the year 2017-2018 is to complete a series of twelve programs to provide commentary on the style of preaching, the preparation, resources in writing an effective homily and speaking before a parish congregation.
These conversations will include advice about funerals and weddings, and the consideration of the myriad of groups such as Hispanic/Latino churches or colleges and universities.
Several recent studies and books have been published that better understand the importance of the preaching ministry.
For example, William Simon, Jr. in his book “Great Catholic Parishes,” (Ave Maria Press, 2016) argues that a “vibrant Sunday experience” includes preaching as a prime mover in parish effectiveness.
Additional works such as “A Handbook for Catholic Preaching,” Edward Foley, Editor (Pueblo, 2016), and Thomas Scirghi’s “Longing to See your Face: Preaching in the Secular Age,” (Pueblo, 2017) recognize new challenges such as the adaptation of foreign-born clergy to the experience of the American parish, or the use social media as well as the inclusion of women and youth ministers in preaching.
My thinking about the preaching ministry can be found in my essay entitled “Preaching in a New Key,” written while on sabbatical from Saint Mary’s College, and with the generous support of friends who provided me the opportunity to write and travel to many diverse houses of worship around the country.
The production of “Sunday to Sunday” complements this effort, since, from my vantage point, no anthology presently exists to see on video the very best sacramental preaching among Catholics today.
To date, the three “pilot programs” are conversations with preachers about their particular style. These first versions draw on the considerable talents of Father John Kasper, Msgr. Robert Sheeran, and Jesuit Father Donal Godfrey.
Depending on funding, a complete version of each of these programs will be produced in which we record their homilies at Mass. The intention is to have in total twelve such guests with programs of a half-hour each, complete with podcasts, and transcripts for further study.
With the conclusion of the first year of production, the intention is to publish “Sunday to Sunday” as a book with selections from “francisfactor.com” and annotated transcripts of the participants and DVD.
This book could be adopted as a textbook for seminaries or those interesting in the art, craft, and spirituality of preaching.
Thanks to the people who have supported this project from the outset — Ed Tywoniak, Ginny Prior, and Tim Farley, colleagues of mine at Saint Mary’s College. Thanks also to an array of family & friends: my sister Marian Russo Payne, and longtime friend, Joan Maxwell. Your suggestions and pointers go a long way to making this project so enjoyable.
I am encouraged by the creative energy of my “Cutfocus” production team of Carlos Torres (Producer/Director), Jake Slonecker (Videographer), and Cole Baird (Photography & Design) — fresh out of Saint Mary’s College; their enthusiasm is a good match for my years of experience in media and ministry.
My idea for this program goes back the 1970’s and to the production of “New Jersey Catholic” a first of its kind in cable television, produced by Ann Mary Mullane and the Office of Communication, Archdiocese of Newark.
When I’m asked about “retirement,” I simply reply: “Oh, I’m doing “overtime,” like Steph Curry still scoring three-pointers that make a difference!
“Sunday to Sunday” builds on a glimmer of creative moments: my rookie production crew of Dave Alworth and Bob Ley at Suburban Cablevision; and my “tour of duty” with Bob Wussler and David Buksbaum of the CBS News Special Events Unit as we covered presidential elections, national conventions and, yes – the deaths, funerals, and elections of popes!
Lastly, the theme music for “Sunday to Sunday” comes from John Rutter’s “The Lord is my Light and my Salvation.” Here Rutter conducts the Cambridge Singers in his version of the 27th Psalm set to such haunting music.