by Olivia Martin
OLATHE — Every weekday, Jason Collett of St. Paul Parish here wakes up around 11 a.m.
Though his schedule may seem like one out of “Portlandia” or the product of an eternal weekend, it’s anything but.
Collett is the creator and currently the sole writer of The Good News e-newsletter, a job that requires large amounts of research, motivation and coffee, though Collett somehow manages to work from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. without the caffeine.
Same Kansas, new idea
Collett grew up attending Prince of Peace School in Olathe, then St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park.
He went on to earn a degree in geography and geographic information systems from Kansas State University, which eventually led him to live and work on Capitol Hill and in seven different states over a five-year period.
Even as he was moving, however, the stability of Kansas life pulled him back home.
And when he decided to return to Olathe, he returned with an idea.
“Since college,” he said, “I’ve wanted to share my faith with people in a unique way and cover the news and the faith in a way that is applicable . . . and digestible.”
It started years ago when he and a friend walked the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage to the apostle James’ tomb in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
There, Collett was struck by the beauty of the cathedral and the ancient ritual of the “botafumerio” — in English, “thurible” — which is a giant censer that swings over the heads of the congregation when a group of a few men heave the rope attached to its pulley.
“That was something I’d never seen before,” he said. “That made me think about my faith.
“There’s so much more history in Spain — things go back thousands of years — and that led me to think about the church.”
Collett remembers this moment as the impetus for his long desire to delve deeper into his faith — and then to share it.
Sharing the good news, millennial-style
This desire was intensified with the realization that the faith was abstract and nearly foreign to many of his friends and acquaintances from church.
Even he didn’t know the faith as well as he would like, Collett admitted, but he wanted that to change.
Initially unsure of how to proceed, he ran across a news platform called The Skimm, which encapsulates each morning’s headlines in an email newsletter.
It immediately caught his attention with its brevity and accessibility, both of which hold special appeal for busy millennials.
“Most millennials, the first thing they do before they get out of bed in the morning is check their email,” he said.
Thus, Collett found his medium — and The Good News was born.
Natalie Roberts, a parishioner of St. Agnes Parish in Roeland Park, enjoys reading the newsletter in her free moments.
“I appreciate that I don’t have to scour through long articles the newspapers or media sources produce,” she said. She particularly likes the synopses of the daily readings and memes.
Father Gary Pennings, pastor of Queen of the Holy Rosary in Wea, has already begun to share The Good News with friends and finds it inspiring.
“It’s great to see lay Catholics . . . really using their gifts and taking their time to put a Christian presence on the internet,” said Father Pennings.
“It’s well-rounded,” said Roberts, “[and] highlights the importance of pro-life [issues] and Catholicism.”
Truth overcomes all divisions
Part of the appeal of The Good News is that it includes breaking news from around the world, in addition to current events within the church.
“I think it’s important for people to learn what’s going on in the church and . . . in the world around them,” said Collett.
He explained that change can only be achieved by those who are both informed and engaged in society.
“It’s important to know how your faith applies to everyone. . . and every situation around you,” he said.
Each vignette in The Good News e-newsletter contains links to the original articles to encourage further reading if one’s interest is piqued — a feature Father Pennings values.
He said he found the newsletter’s recent summary of the church’s teaching on alien life, for example, both entertaining and informative.
Working on The Good News continues to teach Collett some new truth about the faith, he said. In particular, he’s come to understand more profoundly the truth of the church’s role within politics.
“The election cycle in 2016 was so polarized,” he began. “I think the solution to the different ends pulling on each other is Catholic teaching, which I think. . . is the solution for all of our social and political tensions.”
This stance is clearly posted at the top of The Good News’s emails: “Not left. Not right. Just Catholic.”
“What really affects me in all of this,” said Collett, “is the truth of the church, how much I 100 percent believe it’s true.”
At the end of the day, The Good News is fueled by grace, motivation and a willingness to endure trial by fire.
“It’s definitely been a real challenge,” said Collett, humbly admitting that he didn’t know much about writing, websites, advertising or marketing when he started working on The Good News.
“It’s really eye-opening. It’s changed me as a person,” he said.
To sign up for The Good News, visit the website.