by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — If, as St. Paul says in his Letter to the Romans, “faith comes from what is heard,” where can we go to hear it?
“The Shepherd’s Voice,” of course, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann’s own long-running half-hour radio show broadcast over local Catholic radio stations and available via podcast, too.
“‘The Shepherd’s Voice’ allows me to speak directly about important issues regarding living our Catholic faith in an increasingly secularized culture,” said Archbishop Naumann. “It also allows me to highlight ministries and initiatives within the archdiocese. I also have the opportunity to interview authors or church leaders that I think will be of interest to listeners.”
Archbishop Naumann’s program was launched in early 2010, and Deacon Bill Scholl has been there from the beginning. Despite having no background or experience in radio, he trained himself to become facilitator, producer and technical engineer.
“‘The Shepherd’s Voice’ is a radio show in which Archbishop Naumann teaches the Catholic faith by interviewing Catholics who live it,” said Deacon Scholl, lead consultant for the archdiocesan social justice office. “We highlight ministries and happenings in the archdiocese and the nation.”
Archbishop Naumann and Deacon Scholl meet at the chancery once a month to record three half-hour shows. The format is simple. Deacon Scholl asks the archbishop an opening question, gives him an opportunity to set the tone of the show, and then the archbishop proceeds to interview the show’s guest.
For the most part, archdiocesan people are the guests Archbishop Naumann interviews, but there have been some “Catholic celebrities” as well, such as Cardinal Raymond Burke, Bishop Robert Barron, Christopher West, Sister Miriam James Heidland, Abby Johnson, Dr. Coleen Kelly Mast and Jennifer Fulwiler.
It’s the archbishop’s show, so he decides the topics and guests.
“I meet with the archbishop, and he tells me who he’d like to have,” said Deacon Scholl. “I make suggestions and recommendations. Sometimes, people approach me with ideas. We’re always looking for people who have a connection to the archdiocese or are doing something interesting for the church.”
“We try to be topical, but at the same time I’m always looking for shows that are ‘evergreen,’ things people will find interesting years from now,” he added.
One nice thing about “The Shepherd’s Voice” is that the archbishop controls the time, said Jim O’Laughlin, president of the Kansas City area-based Catholic Radio Network. If he was on a commercial station, he’d typically only get a couple of minutes at most to say anything. Also, it’s nice that about half the people listening to Catholic Radio aren’t Catholic, so the archbishop’s message goes out to a large and diverse audience.
“I am always amazed at the number of non-Catholics who listen to Catholic media,” said Archbishop Naumann. “Frequently, I receive comments from parishioners about the radio show as well as the recordings of my weekly Leaven column. The radio show is just one element in my efforts to teach and communicate with the people that I am called to shepherd.”
One of the great things about the program is that it gives people a chance to know their archbishop and what’s on his heart, said Deacon Scholl. It also helps raise awareness of how people are responding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
“One of the things I love about producing ‘The Shepherd’s Voice’ is listening to the archbishop’s perspective and insight,” said Deacon Scholl. “It’s kind of like having the archbishop as a spiritual adviser. I love those moments where his charism of the Holy Spirit speaking through him shines through. Oftentimes, I’m taking notes because what he says and how he says it is so profound.”
Being a “radio personality” is no mere obligation; it fits neatly into Archbishop Naumann’s vision of being a spiritual leader.
“Communication is critical for exercising leadership,” said the archbishop. “‘The Shepherd’s Voice’ gives me an opportunity to speak directly to parishioners of the archdiocese without my message being filtered by the secular media. I also hope it allows listeners to get to know me and to experience a more personal connection with their bishop.”