Vocations Office reaching out with a podcast

Fr. Chad Arnold talks about the podcast he and Fathers Drew Hoffman and Garett Burns are recording for the diocesan Vocations Office to promote vocations to the priesthood. (Advance video image grab)

Want to listen to the podcast?

The podcast “about four o’clock” is produced by the diocesan Vocations Office and may be found at about4.org. It is also available at all the major podcast websites. Several episodes have been recorded and are now being edited. They cover topics such as when to enter the seminary, differences between the natural vocation of marriage and the supernatural vocation of the priesthood, and friendship in the discernment of a vocation, among others.

After a few years in the diocesan Vocations Office, Fr. Chad Arnold noticed he was receiving similar questions from men inquiring about the priesthood.

“There are a lot of questions that are unique but a lot of things that are the same,” Fr. Arnold said from the Borromeo House on the campus of St. Joseph Parish in Wichita. “I thought, ‘There are so many common questions that these guys have they may think they’re the only ones having them.’”

After some prayerful pondering, he landed on the idea of creating a podcast to address those commonalities and reach potential seminarians who may be too shy to inquire about a possible vocation.

“We felt that a podcast might be a non-confrontational way to put some of that information out there that would hopefully help them in their discernment, their understanding,” he said.

That was just over a year ago.

Originally, Fr. Arnold, the director of Vocations and the assistant director of the St. Joseph House of Formation, planned to have back-and-forth banter with a high school friend he knew would feel comfortable during a recording conversation – someone he could give a hard time to and rib them a little bit.

That friend works for an IT company that already had a studio and is a father of several boys. “So I thought that would make an interesting angle,” Fr. Arnold said.

A change of plans

When Bishop Carl A. Kemme provided the vocations office with additional priestly help, one of whom was already working on a podcast, Fr. Arnold decided to start a podcast team within the office. “These guys I know well enough. I can rib them and banter with them and it would be a great way to build our team.”

So, the high school buddy was out, he said and the assistants – Fr. Drew Hoffman and Fr. Garett Burns – were in.
“At that point, we had to build our studio,” Fr. Arnold said.

After some research into podcast studios, Father went online, loaded the equipment into his virtual shopping basket, and hit return.
He and his team set up the studio with comfortable chairs and a coach in a small space in the Borromeo House.

“We came in and just got comfortable with the space, using the equipment, and we recorded three episodes we never thought would see the light of day,” he said. “They were just for me to practice editing and for us to practice what our back-and-forth would be.”

By the second practice session, though, he said, “we thought we could probably put this out. The conversation felt really natural and it was fun.”

Fr. Arnold said during the sessions he was able to answer common questions but that Fathers Burns and Hoffman provided answers from a slightly different point of view.

“So one of the joys is that I’m learning from them too,” he said. “Hopefully the three minds together are giving even greater advice.”

Priests are muses for each other

Fr. Arnold added that often one of his assistants will say something that sparks another comment.

“They’re genuine conversations we’re having and we enjoy one another’s company, but we also help each other see things from a slightly different lens,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed it more than I anticipated.”

It’s the editing that has been a greater challenge, Fr. Arnold said.

“I’m not technologically minded and it’s taken more time than I thought it would,” he said. “That being said, I do enjoy some aspects of editing. There is an artistic quality of figuring out…where do we put the brakes? Where do we blend these things together?”

Fr. Arnold said he discovered during the editing process how he and others can “sound much smarter than we actually are” when the repetitions and the “um’s” are cut out.

“So it looks like for 30 minutes we’re just firing and having really coherent thoughts and that’s really maybe not the entire truth of those conversations,” he said with a chuckle.

Fr. Arnold says he’s learned one of the most important aspects of a podcast is consistency.

“I want to make that commitment to people that are going to listen that we will consistently put out a good episode once a week and right now a lot of that pressure will be on making sure the editing is done. I think we can get it all recorded in time. Can I get the editing done?”

Father Arnold said he may be reaching out for help in the future with editing.

But for now, one podcast has been uploaded and is bearing fruit, he said.