In the Gospel of Mark, Our Lord gave us this directive, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15, NIV) The essence of His Gospel is love, and the Universal Spirit of peace and love is embedded in the call made to clergy who joyfully follow Our Lord’s dictate. Mass communication of the Gospel through internet broadcast is a means to accomplish this mission.
Early in the 20th Century there were radio systems that transmitted messages only in Morse Code. Electronic amplification was a key development in changing radio from an experimental practice by experts into a home appliance. After the First World War, commercial broadcasting began in the 1920’s and became an important mass medium for entertainment and news.
Then came the television…that funny looking box that had moving pictures and sound. In 1951 over a million TV sets were sold in the United States, ten times more than what there were in 1950. Any family that had a TV in the house was the most popular family on the block. Color television was also introduced in 1951, but color programs were not regularly broadcasted until 1954. Today you can purchase a color TV for as little as $150. However, in 1954 a color TV would cost $1,100 — and that was without a remote! Americans were watching programs like “I Love Lucy” and “Dragnet.” And many of the kids I knew aspired to become members of the “Mickey Mouse Club.” It was in the 1950’s that America would discover the power of television. During that time a television program entitled “Life is Worth Living” premiered on the DuMont Television Network during the same time slot as Milton Berle’s hit show, “The Texaco Star Theatre.” (Uncle Miltie’s show was so successful that it gave him the nickname “Mr. Television.”)
“Life is Worth Living” was hosted by The Venerable and Most Reverend Fulton John Sheen, who was the Bishop of Rochester. Many of you may remember that this was an inspirational television series. Bishop Sheen would speak into the camera and discuss the moral issues of the day, often using blackboard drawings and lists to help explain the topic; and when the blackboard was filled, he would move to another part of the set and request one of his “Angels” to clean the blackboard. (These Angels were actually the TV crew hidden out of sight of the camera.) The charismatic Bishop became one of televisions earliest and most unlikely superstars winning an Emmy Award for “Most Outstanding Television Personality” in 1952. During his acceptance speech, Bishop Sheen credited his four writers — Matthew, Mark, Luke and John — for his success. Catholicism was on prime time TV and for many Americans, the Bishop’s show was their introduction to sacramental beliefs.
Putting it all together
Considering that the average annual salary in middle class America in the 1950’s was $4,200 and minimum wage was 75 cents an hour, television broadcasting was quite expensive. Production budgets ranged from $10,000 to $70,000 per episode. Those figures do not include the cost of production equipment and transmitters, office personnel, studios, etc. Despite the high cost of broadcasting, television networks were highly successful with advertising rates because over 13,000,000 Americans would regularly watch programs like “I Love Lucy,” “Texaco Star Theatre,” and others. But the cost of viewership was astronomical; especially when you consider that in our present time we can reach just as many or more viewers through the internet at a tiny fraction of the cost. Universal Spirit Broadcasting Network (USBN) was founded as an internet broadcasting company for less than $5,000.
Universal Spirit Broadcasting Network, Inc. is a non-profit Arizona corporation and is a chartered ministry of the Catholic Church of Antioch. The vision of starting an internet broadcasting company began during seminarian studies back in 2009. Soon after ordination into the Deaconate in 2011, USBN started with the renovation of offices located above an Islamic food bank in the Financial District of Phoenix, Arizona. USBN is dedicated to ecumenical ministries that celebrate all faiths based on the Universal Spirit of peace and love. USBN features programs which are spiritual, educational, promote fine art, and feature social justice issues.
Production of our first programs began in the spring of 2012. Over a dozen celebrations of the liturgy were produced utilizing multi cameras and green screen formatting. Later that year, “Celebrations of Sacred Liturgy” were produced with the cooperation of the Arizona Association of Independent Catholic Clergy. The Master of Ceremonies and host for these productions was The Most Reverend Dr. William A. Wettingfeld, Presiding Bishop of The National Catholic Church of North America. (Eventually Bishop Wettingfeld became Chairman of the Board of Directors of USBN.) In the summer of 2013 the Board of Directors began seeking programs that would feature Independent Old Catholic Jurisdictions. I believe that the Holy Spirit impressed upon the Board of Directors to create a specific program that would feature the Independent Sacramental Movement (ISM) across America coast to coast.
Faces & Places
Faces & Places is a news journal production of Universal Spirit Broadcasting Network which I host. Its mission is to explore ministries who celebrate all faiths based on the universal spirit of peace and love. The program features interviews with Independent Catholic clergy and community, reporting who they are, how they started with Independent Catholicism, what their outreach ministries are, and what we can do to encourage unity in the Independent Sacramental Movement (ISM). Segments featuring iconic landmarks will be videotaped as a special interest module for the show. Post production of Faces & Places will be done under the supervision of Cris Romero, who is Producing Director of Finis Productions, a professional media company in Phoenix, Arizona.
I departed Phoenix on October 7, 2013 and have since traveled over 25,000 miles across the United States. Presently I have journeyed through 30 States and have conducted and videotaped 20 interviews. (More interviews are being scheduled for upcoming months.) Interviews have been diverse and informative and include history of the ISM, as well as personal anecdotes of Clergy regarding their experiences. While in Georgia, it was a privilege and a pleasure to meet Bishop Gregory W. Godsey, who is Director of the Office of Communication and Media Relations for the International Old Catholic Churches, and also the Editor of Convergent Streams. Another interview regarding Christian communications was done with Pastor Pat Rutherford, who is the President and Founder of Praise Broadcasting Network, an established Christian broadcasting network which provided insights regarding media distribution.
Faces & Places will premiere on January 20, 2015
Many unexpected challenges and new developments within USBN’s production staff temporarily took Faces & Places out of active production. Soon after an interview in Nashville, Tennessee, our vehicle was robbed in a parking lot in Pueblo, Colorado. Thankfully, only production equipment was stolen and our camera and hard drives and storage disks were left untouched. Faces & Places is back in post-production and the first episode will broadcast on January 20, 2015. The program will be posted on our website, “www.UniversalSpiritNetwork.org” and also on our page on Facebook.
We live in exciting times! Media pioneers like Bishop Sheen were highly successful despite budgetary and technological constraints. Costs of media technology and production have drastically decreased through the years. The computer informational age allows us to have affordable media channels so that ministries like Convergent Streams (of which USBN is a proud sponsor), Praise Broadcasting Network and USBN can serve the Body of Christ. Please watch the premiere of Faces & Places on January 20, 2015, and connect with the ISM across America. We thank you for your continued prayers, encouragement and support.
Fr. Rick Romero is priest in the Old Catholic Churches International. He is a friar in the Order of Saint Francis, Old Catholic. He is the founder of Universal Spirit Broadcasting Network and is a tireless advocate for social justice.