Fr. Dan Volkert takes several hours each week preparing his Sunday homily for people who celebrate Mass at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Greenfield. But it only takes him minutes to upload the same homily to his Web site, and within 24 hours his message has traveled to Egypt, China, Russia, Southeast Asia, Africa, India the Middle East.
Like his homilies at the parish, Fr. Volkert’s http://www.nospinhomilies.com captivates and draws listeners to the Catholic faith and to a closer and deeper relationship with Jesus. In addition to weekly homilies, the 42-year-old priest includes spiritual studies and Bible studies to teach listeners about Scripture and how to apply it to daily life.
Fr. Volkert noted that St. Jerome once said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” He hopes that the Web site, will help others grow in the knowledge of Christ and the teachings of his church.
“In doing so, we will draw upon the great resources of Roman Catholic art, philosophy, theology and the lives of the saints in order to grow in our understanding of Jesus Christ and to live out the life he calls us to live,” he said.
With spiritual studies such as “Finding your Spiritual Center,” “the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist,” lessons on Mary and talking with children about the Eucharist, Fr. Volkert’s messages cross generational lines.
“I get feedback from so many people of all ages who say that they really like it,” he said. “It is a wonderful blessing for me because I get to discuss the history behind what we believe and talk about the signs of the times in the context of the historical documents. I think people enjoy learning about the historical context, economic, political and religious issues back then. After listening, people tell me that they learned something about what Jesus was talking about and how to apply it to their daily lives. That seems to be what grabs onto people and holds them so that when they walk away, they have something to take with them. I guess my style seems to be working.”
The idea for the Web site began two years ago, after former parishioners from St. Anthony in Pewaukee called Fr. Volkert telling him how much they missed his homilies; they would often remark about learning faith and Bible history through his words.
After hearing from current and former parishioners several days in a row, he began to realize that maybe God was leading him on a mission to evangelize through modern media.
“When I started this Web site, it was ironic that I did it in the Year of Paul, and Paul was the master of evangelization,” said Fr. Volkert. “He evangelized two continents, Asia and Africa, and established Christian communities in port cities like Corinth. Ships came in from all over the world leaving with cargo to other ports. On those ships was cargo sharing the message of Christianity and that was invaluable to the spread of Christ’s message. What I am doing is basically copying Paul in his strategy of using the signs of the times, not cargo in ships, but using the Internet and using it to promote the message of evangelization.”
Visit his Web site.
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While he didn’t know how to proceed with getting the message through the Internet, the answer came from yet another past parishioner from St. Anthony who also expressed gratitude for his homilies.
“I don’t believe in coincidence, I believe in providence,” said Fr. Volkert. “He told me about a guy who is an audio engineer who was going through the RCIA process, and then I met another parishioner who was a Web designer. He told me that he would be more than happy to help with my special project. It is all providential; these two guys came in that specific point in time, and prodded me along – and then there were all those people from St. Anthony – it was just so many people and in such a short time, that I had to explore.”
After scouring the Internet, Fr. Volkert and his Web team found nothing similar to the No Spin Homilies idea. Many priests offered studies through personal blogs, but he found nothing in an audio-visual format.
Fr. Volkert insisted that the site remains free for anyone seeking to draw closer to God, and learn more of the Catholic faith. No advertising is accepted, and all funding to produce the weekly audio recordings comes from Fr. Volkert’s personal resources, as well as the contributions of generous benefactors.
“The two guys on the Web team have donated all their time as well,” he said. “They do a great job of marrying my audio with video presentations to make the studies look very professional.”
In the beginning, No Spin Homilies might receive 30 hits a day. Now, despite the lack of promotion, has jumped to an impressive 100 or more hits per day.
“We are trying to work on some marketing though to reach more people,” explained Fr. Volkert. “We are thinking of marketing to free podcasts, and actually people can get reconfigured homilies if they have a subscription to iTunes. We also have the Web site on Facebook and YouTube so we can reach out to all generations of faith, especially the younger generations and those in their 20s and 30s. I want to keep up with the technology, but not sacrifice core doctrine as who we are as Catholics.”