New Ascension yearlong podcast starts Jan. 1, will present entire catechism

Father Mike Schmitz, a priest of the Diocese of Duluth, Minn., and a popular speaker and author, is seen in this undated photo. He is the host of "The Catechism in a Year" podcast, which will be launched by Ascension Jan. 1, 2023. Father Schmitz will read the entire Catechism of the Catholic Church over the course of 365 daily podcast episodes. (CNS photo/courtesy Ascension)

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Beginning Jan. 1, Ascension Press will launch "The Catechism in a Year," taking listeners through the four parts of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and "providing explanation, insight and encouragement along the way."

Over the course of 365 daily podcast episodes, Father Mike Schmitz will read the entire catechism. Throughout 2022, the priest has hosted the popular "The Bible in a Year" podcast with Scripture scholar Jeff Cavins.

Father Schmitz read every verse of the Catholic Bible in 365 days, using a reading plan based on Cavins' Great Adventure Bible Timeline. The reading plan organizes the 14 narrative books of the Bible into 12 periods to help readers understand how they relate to one another and to God's plan for salvation.

A priest of the Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota, Father Schmitz is a popular Catholic speaker and author. He and Cavins created the Bible podcast with the backing of Ascension.

"We don't think it's an accident that after 'Bible in a Year,' the No. 1 requested thing from our audience was a 'Catechism of the Year," said Lauren Joyce, communications and public relations specialist at Ascension, a multimedia Catholic publisher based in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

Helping the faithful understand and read the Bible with Cavins' timeline learning system and the podcast format "made such a big difference for accessibility," she said at a Nov. 2 news conference via Zoom. "Our audience is saying do the same thing for the catechism: 'We know we should like it, we know we should read it (and) struggle to do so, so help us out.'"

In the 30 days before the news conference, the Bible podcast had reached an audience of 1.5 million people via various electronic devices, such as a cellphone, a tablet with downloaded episodes or YouTube.

According to Chartable Global Reach, a podcast measurement company, "The Bible in a Year" was No. 1 in 2022 in the religious/spiritual category.

Ascension also has released a new print edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Its four sections have navigation features for the reader, including color-coded corner tabs, key words and citations from Scripture, church councils, popes and/or doctors of the church.

There is an extensive glossary and appendices, which include a timeline of ecclesiastical writers who contributed to the development of doctrine throughout the church's history.

There also is an accompanying foldout chart, "The Catechism at a Glance," which is "like a road map if you will," John Harden, senior product manager at Ascension, explained at the news conference.

"The back side shows how all the sources of Scripture and tradition flow into the catechism," he said, "and the front side shows how the four parts are arranged -- what we believe, how we worship, how we live our lives as Christians and how we pray as Christians."

He called it a joy to work on this edition of the catechism. "I really hope people learn to grow in love and appreciation for all we believe as Catholics."

Harden also "gave a big shoutout and thanks" to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for working with Ascension on the issue of copyright and permissions that allowed the Ascension volume to go forward. He noted that there will be an ongoing theological review of the "Catechism in a Year" podcast content and the podcast itself.

Each country's local bishops control permissions and copyrights for the catechisms disseminated within their country. For this reason, Ascension currently only has permission from the USCCB to sell Ascension's edition of the catechism within the United States. Ascension said it hopes to work with other episcopal conferences to receive their approvals in the future.

The catechism recognizes "that what God is doing in this world didn't end" with Chapter 28 of the Acts of the Apostles in the Bible, Father Schmitz said. The fifth book of the New Testament tells of the founding of the church. "God continues to reach out to his people. ... (With the catechism) we get to love him more," he added.

"What we did with the Bible, we're going to do with the catechism,” the priest said about the podcast. "For 365 days, we are going to take a little section of the catechism every single day.

"We're going to read it, explain it, and expand upon it so that by the end of this year we’ll be able to say, 'I know what the church believes, I know what God's plan is for my life, I know how to talk to God, I know how to listen to his voice, and I know how to worship him.' It's going to be incredible."

"For us to grow as Catholics, we need to know what our faith is. We need to articulate our faith in order to share it," said Cavins, who will host a new program titled "The Bible Timeline Show."

In 60-minute episodes, he'll unpack questions raised by listeners of the "The Bible in a Year" podcast with Father Schmitz and other guests.

"The Catechism in a Year" podcast will be available for free on all major podcast platforms as well as the Hallow app. Ascension also is providing Catholic schools and parishes free materials promoting the podcast, including flyers, posters, media graphics and bulletin announcements.


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