New evangelization efforts launch in JoplinBy: Linda Leicht Joplin MO
Father John (“J.”) Freidel is always looking for ways to communicate with fellow Catholics and others around the Joplin area, so it was a natural fit to start a television show and launch a radio station.
“How do you take the message of Jesus and get it out for a whole new group?” Fr. Friedel asked, a priest who clearly has the gift of gab. “I see radio and television as a platform to be able to talk about what matters to me most: Jesus. And how and what Jesus talks about influences the world.”
Father Friedel is pastor of St. Peter the Apostle Parish, Joplin, and St. Ann Parish in Carthage. He is also the diocesan Director of Vocations/Seminarians and the Director and Chaplain of Catholic Campus Ministry at Missouri Southern State University, Joplin.
Sponsored by Mercy Joplin, the television show “Faith in Our Hometown,” airs at 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. Sunday mornings on KSN-TV, the local NBC affiliate. During those time slots, Fr. Friedel hopes to reach people who aren’t in church.
“Maybe they are going to hear something that makes them want to connect,” he said.
The format is similar to a “panel discussion,” with Fr. Friedel facilitating conversations among ecumenical guests on issues facing society, the Church, the Missouri legislature, communities, schools, etc.
A rare opportunity occurred in 2014 when the FCC opened the application process for low watt FM radio stations. With assistance from the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau and a host of interested parishioners, St. Peter the Apostle Parish, Joplin, applied and was granted a station. Father, Son, and (Holy) Spirit radio, KFSS-FM, was on the air in June of 2015. Fr. Friedel, and parishioners, including Al and Chris Zar, began working on setting up the studio in the parish rectory basement. Found on the FM dial at 94.5, the station offers music, the bishop praying the rosary with seminarians, and programming from EWTN, The Paulists, and others on a 24-hour loop. Programming continues to grow, and there is a great hope to foster segments in Spanish and perhaps ultimately boost the station signal to reach surrounding areas such as Lamar, Webb City, Carthage, and beyond.
KFSS programming is definitely Catholic radio.
“We want to introduce people to the Catholic way of thought,” Fr. Friedel said. “I think that the Catholic imagination is supposed to be expansive, not restrictive.”
The challenge is building locally-produced segments for KFSS, and one already “in the can” includes a segment called Spotlight on Our Seminarians. The hope is that anything produced at KFSS locally may be made available within the diocese. For example, Fr. Friedel’s homilies, which are now available on the church Website, will be aired. And work continues in partnership with local Catholic schools, including students in McAuley Catholic High School and Missouri Southern’s Catholic Campus Ministry, in order to bring in younger voices and meet their needs for programming and fellowship.
Twice the exposure
Utilizing the two types of media of television and radio has given Fr. Friedel a unique opportunity to engage a lot more people and broaden his ecumenical and community outreach.
“Faith in Our Hometown,” is intended to be a conversation with Catholics and non-Catholics alike in order to talk about issues that are sometimes uncomfortable, or that introduce people in the audience to points of view with which they may be unfamiliar.
“We are looking for an intelligent conversation between different faiths and viewpoints,” Fr. Friedel said. “We hope to be a model for the community, to show that we can disagree civilly, seek understanding, because that is not happening in politics today.”
The Zars actually came up with the television concept and sought the assistance of the television station. They convinced Fr. Friedel of the great opportunity to share the faith, who in turn convinced Mercy Joplin to sponsor the program.
“The program focuses on how faith communities can work together,” said Chris. “In those situations that all of us deem important, if we work together we are much stronger.”
With some 40 segments taped, a few programs speak directly to differences in faith. For example, the local Imam from the Islamic Society of Joplin was a recent guest. Through that conversation, listeners learned that Muslims believe that Jesus is the messiah, but he has to return to finish his mission, and that Mary is the most mentioned woman in the Quran, Fr. Friedel explained.
Chris pointed out that a show about Christmas included the Imam and a representative of the United Hebrew Congregation of Joplin. They were asked about the pressures of the Christian holiday. Both said they have no problem with being wished a “Merry Christmas,” Chris said.
Another recent show addressed human trafficking, a growing issue that concerns Joplin and many towns across the diocese and the state. Raising awareness about current challenges and hot topics brings together people of good intention and good faith to work together, regardless of their other differences, Fr. Friedel said.
“That’s exactly the kind of conversation we want,” said Chris. “As a Catholic minority in this area, we want to let people know who we are and also what we believe. We want to examine the many things we have in common, including what we want to do and see for the community.”
Al, who has spent much of his working life in radio, sees the TV show as a way to bring to light “how much more we all have in common. It opens communication so we can talk about differences and in turn, grow in understanding of one another.”
“We got started doing all of this because we believe it might make a difference within our community,” said Fr. Friedel. “This gives me a chance to proclaim the Word of God in multiple outlets.”
Leslie Anne Eidson contributed to this article.
To suggest future programming topics for “Faith in Our Hometown,” please contact Leslie Eidson at firstname.lastname@example.org.