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Salt and Light CEO talks faith and entertainment

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Father Thomas Rosica discusses the influence of TV during Vancouver fundraiser for new projects
By Agnieszka Krawczynski
The B.C. Catholic

Caption: Father Thomas Rosica thanks volunteers after Taste and See, the second Salt and Light fundraiser in Vancouver. It was held at the Italian Cultural Centre May 28. Agnieszka Krawczynski / The B.C. Catholic.

An English media spokesman for the Vatican and the head of the biggest Canadian Catholic TV network recently greeted hundreds of local fans.

Father Thomas Rosica, CSB, head of Salt and Light Television, landed in Vancouver to raise funds for the network May 28.

"One of the things we do is we unite the country, and we unite the Church," he told an audience of 400.

He pointed out that there are Salt and Light subscribers in nearly 3 million homes. Thanks to the Internet, the 14-year-old network also reaches beyond Canadian borders.

During live coverage of Holy Week six years ago, Father Rosica began receiving messages from viewers in China. Some said they were in a hall with 500 people, watching Pope Francis wash feet on Holy Thursday.

Father Rosica didn't believe it until he found out many of their Chinese- and English-language programs are reaching other countries through cable or Internet.

"When I've been to synods of bishops, I've met a lot of bishops from those countries. They come right over, and say: 'Thank God we have you,'" Father Rosica said.

"The Vatican has told me this is an extremely important way of evangelizing; a discreet, but constant, evangelization."

He said Salt and Light, headquartered in a Toronto warehouse, reaches audiences in 86 to 140 countries weekly. Those include Afghanistan and Iraq, where he recently found out, thanks to the American military ordinariate, soldiers are able to watch Catholic programming on base.

"That's another way this small rinky dink operation in Toronto is feeding the world. For me, that's what the new evangelization is all about."

Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, voiced nothing but praise for the little Catholic media network that could.

"We are here to support something that is truly necessary in this world," said the Basilian confrere and friend of Father Rosica.

"The media surrounds us with a lot of stories, some good, some not so good. Salt and Light is a reliable and even a fun-filled way of having news come to us that really counts. It's a great blessing to the Church in Vancouver and throughout the country."

The evening's events included a question-and-answer period with the high-level Basilian priests and Salt and Light producer Alicia Ambrosio.

Audience members submitted questions on a vast range of topics, from the importance of Catholic television to the Church's teaching on same-sex attraction, to the panellists' opinions of Donald Trump.

"I'll admit upfront that I find a lot of his rhetoric disagreeable, pugnacious, and not very helpful," said Archbishop Miller.

"Donald Trump is a, I hate to say it, but maybe a model of how not to conduct civic discourse about difficult questions."

Ambrosio shared the dangers of "amusing ourselves to death," the title of a book she read while working on her bachelor's degree in communications at Simon Fraser University.

"It talked about how we were numbing ourselves to reality with television." Ambrosio said she takes care when crafting her shows, knowing "the dangers that are posed when we try to turn everything into entertainment."

Father Rosica added that new shows, including new children's programming, are coming to Salt and Light. He received an earful of suggestions for new programs during his visit.

Other speakers at the evening event included Salt and Light staffers Sebastian Gomes, Rodney Leung, and Charles Le Bourgeois, as well as Father Paul Goo of Christ the Redeemer Parish.

Salt and Light was born on the coattails of World Youth Day in Toronto in 2002.

"I never set out to do something like this. It was the furthest thing from my imagination," said Father Rosica, who was the National Director of WYD and of the papal visit of Pope John Paul II at the time.

"After World Youth Day was over, a wonderful experience, I wanted to go to hibernate for six years. And these people came forward with this idea called Salt and Light."

Since its inception, Salt and Light has grown to more than a television network. With a staff of mostly 27- to 35-year-olds, it also creates documentaries, produces radio shows, and runs a magazine, blog, and social media accounts.

Father Rosica plans to take a staff of eight to Krakow to cover WYD this summer.

"If we're really doing this, it's future oriented," said Father Rosica.

"We're not a trip down memory lane, although we show beautiful things in the Church. Media, Catholic media, is the hands of young adults."

Last Updated on Thursday, 09 June 2016 08:02  

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