New digital outreach will profile seminary alums’ creative ministry efforts during COVID-19 pandemic
DETROIT — In-person classes might be suspended, but Sacred Heart Major Seminary’s community remains.
The Detroit seminary continues to teach classes online, prepare seminarians for ordination and train the next generation of lay leaders for the new evangelization. But Sacred Heart is more than a school — it’s a community of students, alumni, teachers and donors.
Looking to spiritually feed its community, Sacred Heart is set to launch a live video podcast showcasing how alumni in active ministry are continuing to preach the Gospel in a coronavirus-inflicted world.
Matthew Gerlach, Ph.D., dean of the seminary’s Institute for Lay Ministry, will serve as the podcast’s host.
“Many of our alumni minster as priests, deacons or lay ministers, so we’re helping them stay connected with other alums and allow them to find a sense of community in a time of isolation,” Gerlach told Detroit Catholic.
The podcast will be recorded remotely — as everything else is these days — with Gerlach hosting a video conference with guests. Audience members can submit questions during the livestream production, giving the podcast a more intimate, real-time feel, said Emily Mentock, director of creative and marketing services for the Archdiocese of Detroit, which is providing technical support for the podcast.
“We really love this platform as a way for people to join the conversation as opposed to just tuning in,” Mentock said. “People will be able to tune into the livestream, send in questions, chat and watch the conversation, which will feel more natural and conversational.”
The schedule of guests is still being determined, but Gerlach hopes to interview a range of clergy and lay alumni — he hinted a few bishops might serve as guests — to talk about the creative ways they’re ministering during the pandemic.
“Heart for Mission,” will supplement Sacred Heart’s other communication channels, such as its newsletter and magazine, Mosaic, Mentock said.
“We’re super proud of Mosaic, which is now a weekly e-newsletter, but there is something engaging about a livestream video podcast,” Mentock said.
Gerlach said the podcast has plans for three to five episodes, with a possibility of more later. If more episodes are produced, topics could expand beyond the COVID-19 crisis, he said.
“I hope our alums feel a sense of fellowship, that we’re all in this together, as we’re all trying to respond with our ministries and in our own discipleship as well,” Gerlach said. “Moreover, we want our alums to know we’re thinking about them right now.”
It’s difficult to plan for the future in the middle of a pandemic, but Sacred Heart is taking its cue from civil authorities as to when in-person classes or events might resume, Gerlach said.
“This is a time for us as a seminary to embrace digital platforms for evangelization,” Gerlach said. “I think both for students and staff, it’s been difficult, but we’re getting better acquainted with digital technology in continuing our mission.
“We’re not leaving traditional ways behind, but I think we are exploring the possibilities of digital learning, interaction and community building,” he added. “And this podcast could be a very important part of that direction.”