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Brisbane men reaching the un-churched through television

Robert Falzon and Mark Doyle

TV preachers: Robert Falzon and Mark Doyle have hosted their own series for new Australian channel, Shalom World TV. Photo: Emilie Ng

CATHOLIC preachers Robert Falzon and Mark Doyle are used to speaking in front of hundreds and thousands of people, so what’s it like talking to a camera for several hours?

According to Mr Falzon, the founder of Catholic ministry MenALIVE and host of a new online video series, it’s a necessary mission for Catholics in Australia.

“My interest in television is predominantly trying to reach those who really are not interested in coming to church,” he said.

It’s for that reason that Mr Falzon and Mr Doyle, members of Brisbane’s Emmanuel Community, agreed to host shows for Catholic media ministry, Shalom World TV.

The ministry launched its first Australian television channel in January under the patronage of Hobart Archbishop Julian Porteous.

The ministry also has a large following in the United States and India, where it originated, and is slowly growing its new Australian audience.

Mr Doyle, who is the director of NET (National Evangelisation Teams) Ministries Australia, said fame was the last reason he took up the offer of hosting his own 12-part series, Life to the Full.

“The deeper reason for me was just because I believe in good Catholic content and getting the Gospel out to more people, using different ways, different methods of doing that,” he said.

He felt Catholics “lagged behind” in the area of contemporary media and took “a leap of faith” with Shalom World TV.

“I’m open to using anything that’s going to work, really, but I feel as Catholics in particular we lag behind a lot in these areas, particularly in contemporary media so I was excited that Shalom was willing to venture into that territory.”

Mr Doyle said he had drawn inspiration from Protestant preachers, or so-called televangelists, but believed Catholics could produce content with similar or better results.

And there was no point in stopping at television.

“I feel like as Catholics we should be open to using any method,” Mr Doyle said.

“There’s so much more we need to be doing and particularly for the generation I’m used to ministering to in young people.”

Mr Falzon said the inspiration for his program, Gospel of Life, came in the middle of the night while on a leadership conference in Uganda.

His program tries to “break open the nature of God for people”.

“Who is this God that we are supposed to fall in love with?” he said.

A regular speaker for MenALIVE events, including a popular Father Factor series which attracts many non-practising Catholics, Mr Falzon said people were interested in God’s message but not the package, which tended to communicate theology.

“What the Church has been brilliant at in the past is meeting people at their points of need – education, health care, now aged care, the poor,” he said.

“Identifying need and then serving and loving into that need.

“Now what we think where we are is, people are still really interested in God’s message, they’re just not interested in the way it’s been communicated.”

Television is Mr Falzon’s way of repackaging the kerygma for people who are no longer sitting in the pews but still yearn to hear a radical Gospel message.

“The first question we ask ourselves is, where are they?” he said.

“We know where they are, it’s all in the dark (but) they’re in our Catholic schools.

“Eighty per cent of people who call themselves Catholic between thirty and fifty years of age have children in Catholic schools.

“The Good News is really good and it’s really exciting, but we do an incredible disservice to God and to the Church, his bride, when we present the Gospel as a mediocre message.

“We should find a way to stop that.”

Both Life to the Full and Gospel of Life and other programs are available to watch at www.shalomworldtv.org.

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