A Conversation with Bishop Robert Reed
Parish priest, CatholicTV personality
Bishop Robert Reed is one of the newest members of the Catholic Digest family. As editor-at-large, Bishop Reed, well- known to viewers of The CatholicTV Network, will write a column in each issue.
An auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Boston, Bishop Reed is president of CatholicTV and is a regular co-host of CatholicTV’s signature talk show This Is The Day. He hosts other programs, including the game show WOW: The CatholicTV Challenge, the reality series House+Home, and the interview series Inter Nos. He has been recorded praying the mysteries of the Rosary at various locations around the world. His television series RENEWED is based on his book Renewed: Ten Ways to Rediscover the Saints, Embrace Your Gifts, and Revive Your Catholic Faith (Ave Maria Press, 2014).
Bishop Reed, who was ordained to the episcopate in August 2016, assists Boston Archbishop Cardinal Seán O’Malley, OFM Cap, as secretary for Catholic media in the archdiocese. Bishop Reed is the bishop for the archdiocese’s west region and serves as pastor of Good Shepherd Parish in Wayland, Massachusetts.
Born June 11, 1959, in Boston, Bishop Reed prepared for the priesthood at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. He was ordained a priest in 1985. He earned a master’s degree in television management from Boston University’s College of Communication.
In 2005 he was appointed to direct CatholicTV, where he has collaborated in the re-branding and expansion of the network, along with the build-out of a new high-definition broadcast and production facility. He oversees the creation, acquisition, and delivery of increasingly diverse and high-quality Catholic programming from around the nation and the world. CatholicTV, available in more than 13.5 million homes, boasts a robust website and HD live stream at CatholicTV.com, as well as apps for iOS and Android devices. It is also available on Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire.
Bishop Reed spoke with Catholic Digest about his spiritual formation and vocation.
Q You’ve been a bishop for a year now, but first you are a priest. How did you discover that God was calling you to the priesthood?
A I grew up in a typical Catholic family. We had a strong relationship with our local parish. Those two — the parish and my family — were centers for my life. We had a parochial school at my parish, and I, along with my brothers and sisters, attended from kindergarten to eighth grade. Between the influence of my family and the fact that I had great priests in my parish when I was growing up and the Sisters of St. Joseph in the parochial school I attended, it was not a stretch for me to consider being a priest. I so very much appreciated growing up Catholic, and I appreciated the other guys who served as pastors and curates in our parish. They had a deep effect upon my life.
There were a couple of incidents that sparked my vocation. One of them was the tragic death of my father, who was killed in a car accident when I was in second grade. My father was not a Catholic, but one of the priests in my parish, Fr. Richard Little, was very kind to my family at that time. He was very pastoral, when being pastoral perhaps was not so common. He came to the funeral home and said prayers for my father, and he accompanied us to the grave. And then, about a week later, he came to our home and presented my family with a crucifix. I remember my mother calling me over, saying, “Bobby, sit down; Fr. Little has something for our family.” I remember looking at his hands and thinking to myself, Those are the hands of a priest. And he was holding the crucifix. That crucifix hung in our living room for the next 40 years, until my parents were deceased (my mother, by the way, remarried).
So, until we sold the family home, it hung there on the living room wall, as a reminder to me of how good the Church was to me and my family at a very tragic moment in our family history.
Q Do you think of yourself primarily as a bishop, a priest, a television personality, or something else?
A Fundamentally I’m a pastor. I’m a parish priest, and that’s where my first love lies. I thoroughly enjoy celebrating Mass and the other sacraments. This weekend I had both first Communion and Confirmation in my own parish, as well as Confirmations in other parishes. But it’s a particular thrill to do these things in my own parish because I’m privileged to know people there. I know the families and some of the kids receiving first Communion who I’ve been working with and praying for. With the young people confirmed in my parish, I’ve been on part of their retreat; I’ve celebrated Mass; I’ve given a witness talk.
So being the pastor of a parish is grounding for me, and it’s that work that makes everything else that I do sensible, because I believe the work we do at The CatholicTV Network is really all about bringing people back as much as possible to their own parish communities and serving the ministry happening in the parish or on a campus for young people away at school. It’s our job to connect people and reconnect people with life in the parish and, if it’s not possible for them to be part of a parish physically, to give them that virtual experience with daily Mass each day, Sunday Mass, and the other devotions and programming that we do.
Q Did you grow up watching Ven. Fulton Sheen on TV? As a “TV priest,” do you see any similarities between you and him?
A Actually I first saw and heard Fulton Sheen after I was ordained a priest, watching videos on television or online. But before Fulton Sheen, Rev. Robert Schuller and the Crystal Cathedral had a great impact on my life and on my faith. I remember watching the Hour of Power when I was in high school and college and being struck by the fact that this televangelist had built a church, a cathedral of sorts. The Hour of Power was a fantastic television production. I would ask myself the question, “Why aren’t we as Catholics doing something as dramatic as this, if indeed we believe that we have the fullness of the faith and a Church with a Tradition linked directly to the Apostles?
Fast-forward to about three and a half years ago. We were fortunate at CatholicTV to be involved with the Magnificat Foundation in producing a live broadcast of the first Catholic event from the [former Crystal Cathedral], now Christ Cathedral [of the Diocese of Orange in California], before the renovation began. Ironically, I was asked to be the master of ceremonies for this event, so I had the pleasure and thrill of standing in the same place where Dr. Schuller used to stand and emceeing this event for an entire day.
Having been fascinated with television from a young age, watching the Hour of Power and asking those questions of myself led me to study television administration and to be involved more with media here in the Archdiocese of Boston. And it’s still what drives me to want to grow and extend The CatholicTV Network as something available for Catholics and dioceses and campuses and families throughout the country. That’s why we refer to ourselves as America’s Catholic Television Network.