Cardinal Collins

Mission stays true to message

  • April 14, 2019

The National Catholic Mission has seen some changes over its 20 years, but there’s one constant that’s been key to making it a success.

“The change in format hasn’t mattered that much because the content is still very strong,” said Deacon Mike Walsh, executive director of the National Catholic Broadcasting Council (NCBC). “I think that’s what made it successful.”

The two-part annual mission will be broadcast on Vision TV 8 p.m. (ET) April 15-16 and Salt+Light TV on April 16-17. Each 30-minute program will be rebroadcast during the regular Daily TV Mass times on Good Friday and Holy Saturday.

The original mission came about in 2000 when the NCBC in collaboration with the Canadian bishops decided to deliver an annual Lenten mission similar to those that take place in parishes across the country during Holy Week.

It would be much like the Daily TV Mass, the council’s signature production, in that it is targeted at those who are unable to attend a parish mission.

Things have changed over the years. Under NCBC founding executive director Michael McManus the mission was bigger in scope. It would be filmed in a parish, usually with a choir on hand, and the mission leader would preach to a congregation. The first mission featured Bishop Paul-André Durocher as mission leader and enlisted the musical talents of Natalie McMaster, Michael Burgess and Arlene Duncan. It continued in a similar vein for the first decade and a half.

Walsh, who took over from McManus in 2015, said to curtail costs it was decided to tweak the format and tape it without the congregation and the choir while remaining true to the mission and enlisting the leading voices in Catholic thought and spiritual direction.

“I think the messages have always been very strong and that’s what made it successful,” said Walsh. “The mission leaders are very good.”

Leading the way this year is Toronto’s Cardinal Thomas Collins, who in four 10-minute talks (two per episode) will preach on “Sin, Forgiveness and Reconciliation.” He will begin in the Old Testament with Psalms 51 and 32, and speak on conscience, why reconciliation is so important and why there is no need to fear confession.

“He does a really good job of talking about sin but not from a point of view of making anybody feel guilty,” said Walsh. “We hope people will find it a way to engage with the Scripture.”

A statement from the Archdiocese of Toronto’s communications office said “we hope people will tune in to hear the cardinal’s inspiring message.”

“Both parish missions and the annual televised mission produced by the NCBC are important pieces in our Lenten journey,” the statement said.

Walsh said past missions are available at the council’s website ( and a study guide is being put together for last year’s mission as well as Collins’ mission. It’s part of a plan to reach out to the new audience the council is trying to cultivate. Walsh would like to see teachers, RCIA instructors and such use the mission to teach more about the faith.

“So we hope the content will live on much beyond just the one play it gets on TV,” he said.

It will also be available to the so-called “YouTube congregation,” said Walsh, that is quickly catching up to the traditional viewers who take in the National Catholic Mission and the Daily Mass.

The council’s YouTube channel has about 50,000 subscribers and around 20,000 viewers tune in each day for the Daily Mass.

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