Harnessing media's power to evangelize
by Scott Opperman, SJ
"The economy was doing well. The technology was in place. The personnel were available. The climate was right to get something new off the ground," says Edward Siebert, a young Jesuit, listing the reasons he founded Loyola Productions to create films, videos, and CDs with a message.
Siebert plans for Loyola Productions to enhance people's awareness of God's active presence in the world, to illuminate hearts and minds through the stories and sounds of human experience. "This is contemporary evangelization and catechesis guised as entertainment," says Siebert.
Eddie Siebert, SJ, and Sharal Churchill are the media moguls with a message at Loyola Productions in Los Angeles.
"Communication arts are so influential in the postmodern village," he says. "I know the potential power of the media for the Church and Society of Jesus. It's my interest.
"One of the best features of working with film, video, and music is that all people, no matter what age, gender, ethnicity, occupation, can be reached," he adds. "There are numerous Jesuits and colleagues who have wonderful talents and skills and knowledge that can be made accessible to broader audiences through Loyola Productions."
Siebert is not alone in this new ministry. He launched the company with help and advice from media execs, professors of communication and film, TV and film producers, screenwriters, and finance executives.
One such source of professional support is Sharal Churchill, Loyola Production's vice president. She began working in film production in 1989 and has worked on 55 films. Siebert describes Churchill as very spiritual, talented in film production, shrewd in business, and connected in Hollywood.
"I became tired of working on productions whose main concern was profit and whose main entree was violence and sex. I wanted to do something more religious, more humanitarian," Churchill says.
"We're making great progress," Siebert says. "Four videos of our Jesuit Series are already in distribution. Prominent Jesuits who know how to engage the viewer with their varied areas of expertise host these 30-minute videos. We also have four compact discs out and some sheet music.
"Fundraising has been tougher than I thought. But we received a grant from the F. J. O'Neil Charitable Trust that greatly helped us. Loyola Marymount University has been generous in multiple ways, along with numerous individuals."
Siebert and the others involved in Loyola Productions recognize the values of the emerging culture and are integrating gospel values and traditional cultural values with this new culture. They follow in Ignatius of Loyola's footsteps.
Author Scott Opperman, SJ, who joined the Jesuits in '97, works with Fr. Michael Sparough, SJ, director of Charis Ministries at Loyola University Chicago (see related story)