Category: Archive

Faith-based site

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

That may sound like a tall order, but to Mike Hayes, Fr. Dave Dwyer and Bill McGarvey, the answer is simple: aim for where young people’s attentions are usually focused – on their computers and iPods.
The Catholic trio are the creative force behind BustedHalo.com, a Web site aimed at “spiritual seekers,” in their 20s and 30s.
“We didn’t want to have a Web site that a bunch of religious people or a bunch of religious professionals would look at,” explained Hayes, who founded BustedHalo.com five years ago as an initiative for the Paulist Young Adult Ministries, a U.S.-based organization that aims to attract young people to (or back to) Catholicism. He is currently managing editor of the Web site.
“We wanted it to be about the everyday life of young people,” Hayes said.
“So did some research and what young people were saying to us, was: ‘what we really go on the Internet for is information.’ So we developed this Web site, which basically has a little bit about everything.”
BustedHalo.com’s content is a mixed bag of podcasts and discussion forums, with articles about politics, culture, entertainment, real life, sex and relationships thrown in. New visitors to the Web site might be surprised to see some high profile contributors like novelist Anne Rice and former President Jimmy Carter.
By embracing popular culture and new media, Hayes hopes the Catholic Church will seem more accessible to young people.
Before joining the Paulist Young Adult Ministries, of which he is now director, Hayes produced radio talk shows at WFAN and WOR in New York and covered major league baseball for NPR and WO. His right-hand man Dwyer produced shows for MTV and Comedy Central, working with comedians like Adam Sandler, Chris Rock and David Spade before leaving television to join the Paulist priesthood in 1993, when he was 29. In addition to acting as publisher of the Web site, Dwyer has just started hosting a two-hour nightly talk show, “The Busted Halo,” on the Catholic Channel on Sirius Satellite radio.
“I really thought in 1993 that God was calling me away from radio and television into the priesthood,” he explained.
“Now that we’re doing stuff with the Internet, and more recently with podcasting and satellite radio, I see that God wasn’t calling me away but telling me to keep those skills and experiences in the glove compartment to use again later in my life.”
Why does he think new media technologies like podcasting are effective ways of introducing young people to Catholic thought?
“From our philosophical point of view, it’s the bridging of faith and culture, and allowing people to see a Catholic place where these things can interact, instead of this message people often see of church against the world,” said Dwyer, whose ancestors came from Tipperary.
“In order to affect the culture we must engage the culture. So if we have people contributing to our Web site like Anne Rice, who writes those vampire novels but who has also started writing about Jesus because she had this great reconversion experience, or if we have Jimmy Carter writing about he thinks the war is being mismanaged, I mean, I think that gives us a credibility. We’re not seen as just a bunch of Catholics writing about rosary devotions.”
Bill McGarvey joined BustedHalo.com as editor almost three years ago.
“I had never worked for a religious publication,” explained McGovern, a former editor of “Book” magazine and writer for publications such as “TimeOut New York,” and “Billboard”. He is also a successful singer-songwriter and has received critical acclaim from, amongst others, the Irish music bible “Hot Press.”
“A buddy of mine told me that Busted Halo were looking for an editor,” he continued.
“When they told me they were trying to put together, that seemed like something I could jump on board with. The way they were talking about Busted Halo was like it was for spiritual seekers,” he said. “It wasn’t about trying to force-feed people religion and I think that’s how a lot of young people look at faith and at religion. You have to talk to them in a way that they understood. I related to that.”
Under his direction, BustedHalo.com has attempted to broaden its reach by advertising on secular Web sites like theonion.com and bullseye.com, and has commissioned thought-provoking articles about faith. Currently online for example, is an interview with two Satanists and a story about the JC girls, an attractive trio of Catholic women (one of whom was formerly a nude dancer), who preach the message of Christ to strippers.
“Clearly anyone who goes to Busted Halo, you don’t have to scratch very deep to realize that there’s a Catholic presence and a Catholic wisdom that we draw from,” said McGarvey, who traces his roots back to Derry.
“But people also have the freedom to talk about what is on their minds and to relate it back to their own spiritual stories. Right now we’ve got a story by a writer who is Jewish. She is dating a Christian guy, and she talks about how being with him throughout Christmas has helped her appreciate Hanukah more deeply. I think people come away very surprised that people who are affiliated with the Catholic Church are able to talk about these things. I find that has been a very liberating to people, that they feel like they can be listened to and that the reality of how they live will not be condemned outright,” he said.
It’s no wonder biggest critics of BustedHalo.com tend to be Catholics who complain that the Web site does not promote the religion in a strict enough way.
“There are people that feel that we shouldn’t accept people where they are, that we should be very heavy handed,” said Hayes, whose father emigrated to the U.S. from County Waterford in 1947.
“The people who come to us from outside the box are so amazed that a Catholic organization is doing something like this and they’re just so intrigued by it that they tend to like us off the bat. I find that once we explain what we’re trying to do, people get it.”
And in spite of criticism, their strategy seems to be working. The Web site currently averages around 2,300 visitors each day. Next year, the group plans to focus its attentions nationwide with a series of Busted Halo retreats in different locations across the U.S.
“Really word of mouth is still the best form of marketing,” said Hayes.

Busted Halo can be reached by logging on www.bustedhalo.com. “The Busted Halo,” radio show takes place from Monday through Friday from 7 – 9pm on the Catholic Channel (channel 159) on Sirius Radio.

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