Making the Catholic Connection | An Interview with Teresa Tomeo | Valerie Schmalz | May 4, 2006
Teresa Tomeo is the host of "Catholic Connection", a daily call-in show produced by Ave Maria Radio in Ann Arbor, Michigan and broadcast daily from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, across the country and available on the web at www.AveMariaRadio.net. In this interview with IgnatiusInsight.com Tomeo discusses her view of the role of Catholic media and Catholics in the world.
Tomeo comes by her credentials through the time-honored beat reporting that marks the true journalist. She brings more than twenty years experience in radio and television, including covering Detroit as a radio reporter, anchor, news director, talk show host, and then as a television reporter. Her reporting assignments for ABC-Channel 7 took her across the country covering some of the most significant stories of the 1990s, including the Oklahoma City Bombing and the 1995 visit to the United States by Pope John Paul II.
Tomeo returned to the Catholic Church in a "reversion" twelve years ago and found she wanted to bring her broadcasting skills with her, first working with Evangelical Christian broadcasting and then moving over to Ave Maria Radio. In addition to awards from the Associated Press and other organizations, she was named "Outstanding Female on Air" by the Detroit Chapter of American Women in Radio and TV.
Her show "Catholic Connection" is syndicated via EWTN and available on most Catholic radio stations.
IgnatiusInsight.com: What do you see as the role of Catholic media, particularly regarding recent attacks on the Church, including The Da Vinci Code--the book, and now the movie due out in May--and the "Gospel of Judas"?
Teresa Tomeo: The Catholic media should be doing whatever it can to stand up and challenge the ridiculous claims in both The Da Vinci Code and the "Gospel of Judas". And I am glad to see that this is exactly what's happening on Catholic television, radio, Catholic web sites, and with Catholic publications. I have seen great articles on IgnatiusInsight.com and the Ascension Press site, www.DaVinciAntidote.com. Honestly I don't know of one solid Catholic media outlet that is not doing something on these latest attacks on the Church. So, I see this as the faithful pulling together to use the attacks as one big teachable moment--which is as it should be. Church leadership is also taking a stand with Archbishop Angelo Amato with the doctrinal office in Rome calling for a boycott of the Da Vinci movie. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has also established a strong resource with its web site www.jesusdecoded.com.
IgnatiusInsight.com: Many people say these are esoteric ideas, and not as important as issues of abortion, poverty, or the genocide in Darfur. How do you, as a listened-to personality in Catholic radio and on the lecture circuit, balance such concrete evils against the more subtle erosion of truth and the ideas of the Church promoted by these writings?
Tomeo: I don't think I would characterize the attacks from books and films, or even the approach taken in the Gnostic gospels, as esoteric ideas. I think these approaches are even more dangerous because people can be lulled into thinking or believing that it is just a book or a movie or someone's take on an old document. Right now we are seeing the fallout from decades of poor catechesis. So many Catholics do not have a basic grasp of the main tenets of the faith. Even those who do might feel challenged when it comes to the Bible and therefore tend to believe a Dan Brown who claims in his book that much of what is contained in it is fact.
We live in such a media-saturated culture and in a sound-bite society that many people tend to believe what they read or see in the media. If they don't believe it, for many it is at least enough to question what they thought they believed about their faith. Therefore, if we don't have a basic understanding of the faith or if that faith is compromised, then we don't see the importance or the reason to fight for the unborn, or the poor, or for those persecuted in other countries. It is all tied together.
IgnatiusInsight.com: Are you seeing more Catholics who want to be involved in transforming our culture? How do you suggest Catholics become concretely engaged with the culture ?
Tomeo: Yes, I do see more people willing to be involved in transforming the culture. We just finished our eighth pledge/membership drive at Ave Maria Radio, which produces more than fifteen Catholic shows, many of which are syndicated through EWTN. This was our most successful fundraising effort yet. Despite the many economic challenges, gas prices, job losses, etc., people tell us that they see the need for Catholic media. We are hearing from more and more people across the country who support Catholic media because they are sick and tired of the Church being attacked. They feel that by supporting us, or other Catholic communications' apostolates, they are making an investment in the Kingdom and are joining in the evangelization process. But this group is still only a drop in the bucket, when you consider that there are close to 65 million people who identify themselves as Catholics. The number of committed Catholics is growing, but it needs to grow even further.
This is one way to get involved in engaging the culture--by supporting Catholic media outlets. Catholics should also be up to date on the issues and be registered to vote. I get really frustrated with people who complain about the moral situation in this country but never bothered to go out and vote for the pro-life/pro-family candidates. We also need to support or work in the pro-life movement. This is one of the biggest areas where our faith is being attacked. But we can't do any of this if we are not first educated in the Church teachings. This will help us defend the faith in work place and in our own circles of family and friends. We also need to constantly pray and seek the help of the Holy Trinity and the intercession of the saints.
IgnatiusInsight.com: How do Catholics educate themselves and their children, become engaged, and not lose heart?
Tomeo: Well, first of all remember that we know how the Good Book ends. We also know that Jesus told us that if they persecuted Him, they will persecute us. Jesus said that "in this world we will have trouble but take heart for I have overcome the world." Trials, struggles, attacks, persecution are all a part of the Christian life. Being a believer is not for wimps. But the good news is that the Lord also promises us an abundant joyful life.
There is nothing greater, nothing more important, nothing that will make you more fulfilled or happy, than a relationship with Jesus. I know--I tried it on my own. Been there, done that, and bought the t-shirt--as the saying goes. I also think we need to remember what Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta said. "God does not expect us to be successful--only faithful." The bottom line is we have to try.
How do we try to educate ourselves and others? We need to know the faith. So listen to Catholic radio, watch EWTN, read and study as much as possible. Do a better job of monitoring the media in our homes. Limit time with the media and bring positive influences into the home and get rid of the negative ones. And then be willing to stand up for the faith in the culture. Write an editorial for your local newspaper. Join a media awareness or activist group such as the Parents TV Council at www.parentstv.org. Or support and join the wonderful Catholic League, which raises awareness about our faith and defends it in the public square. Their web site is www.catholicleague.org. With all the great resources out there, there is simply no reason to plead ignorance any more.
IgnatiusInsight.com: Any last words of advice or thoughts?
Teresa Tomeo: We all have to do something and we are all going to be held accountable for not only what we know, but for what we did with our talents. I have this great quote I found from one of my favorite writers, author and humorist Erma Bombeck. Erma said, "when I stand before God at the end of my life I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say, I used everything you gave me."
That is what I am trying to do--use every bit of talent and energy the good Lord gave me; not for me, but for Him and His kingdom and His Church. But regardless of what those talents are, we are all required to use them, which means we have to be in the world--not of the world--but in the world. So, take a stand. Speak up. Teach your children. Do something for the faith with the many gifts God gave us. I always like to remind people of the wonderful prayer from St. Teresa of Avila whom I was named after:
Let nothing disturb you
Nothing frighten you
All things are passing
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
Nothing is wanting in him who possesses God
God alone suffices.
Valerie Schmalz is a writer for IgnatiusInsight. She worked as a reporter and editor for The Associated Press, and in print and broadcast media for ten years. She holds a BA in Government from University of San Francisco and a Master of Science from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She is the former director of Birthright of San Francisco. Valerie and her wonderful husband have four children.
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