Story by S.L. Hansen
(SNR) - Bishop James D. Conley has been named May’s “Bishop of the Month” by the website AskABishop.com.
The website features seven videos and one audio podcast of Bishop Conley’s answers to questions about the Catholic Faith. He is one bishop out of 16 who have recorded answers for the site thus far.
Bishop Conley’s connection with AskABishop.com stretches back to when the site was just the vision of its creator, Anand Bheemarasetti.
Bheemarasetti was born and raised in India. He said he moved to the United States— where he landed in Lincoln, Nebraska, for a time—in order to achieve “financial success and personal pleasure.”
He continued, “Instead, I’m trying to be useful with my God-given talents. It’s only because of the influence that the people of Lincoln had on me when I first moved to this country.”
After serving in Lincoln and Denver as a FOCUS missionary (which is how he met his wife, Lindsey), Bheemarasetti worked for the Archdiocese of Denver’s young adult ministry. There, he developed a friendship with then-auxiliary Bishop Conley.
“He had this idea, and he asked me about it,” Bishop Conley recalled.
Bheemarasetti wanted to connect young people with good catechesis from the successors to the Apostles via computer technology.
One of the most important features of Bheemarasetti’s idea is the video format. Even though producing videos is laborious and time-consuming, viewers can see the bishop’s face and experience his personality and pastoral gifts. Putting these videos on the Internet enables the bishops to teach people all around the world.
“To quote Pope Francis, ‘The internet, in particular, offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity. This is something truly good, a gift from God,’” Bheemarasetti said.
Statistics support Bheemarasetti’s use of the Internet.
“People ask over 100 billion queries just on Google every month, and 32% of those searches are specifically for religious or spiritual information,” he said.
Of course, the Internet is not without its dangers, something that Bheemarasetti acknowledges readily.
“Many people are easily misinformed there, sometimes even by the reputable sources like universities and news networks,” Bheemarasetti admitted. “We can use that very medium, the Internet, to undo everything and teach the truth and values.”
Bishop Conley responded favorably to Bheemarasetti’s vision.
“I thought that the concept was very interesting and tipped off a few of my bishop friends,” he said. “They also though it was a good idea.”
With his strong background in technology, Bheemarasetti got to work. Archbishop Charles Chaput—still the ordinary of Denver at the time —and Bishop Conley were the first to participate.
Bheemarasetti said that his first filmed interview with Bishop Conley confirmed that AskABishop.com was the right idea.
“He is one of the greatest teachers when it comes to explaining beauty, goodness and truth,” Bheemarasetti said. “He has a special way of tying it all together and pointing it towards God.”
The public has responded likewise. One of Bishop Conley’s AskABishop videos, “What is Conscience,” has been viewed by people in more that 50 different nations.
Bishop Conley also has introduced Bheemarasetti to several other bishops. On one of Bheemarasetti’s most recent visits to Lincoln, Bishop Emeritus Fabian W. Bruskewitz was filmed, answering more questions to be used on the site.
Bheemarasetti now has hours of footage of various bishops. He carefully edits each question and answer into a three- to five-minute video—just the right length for web users, he said. Graphics and text enhance the viewer’s ability to absorb the bishop’s teaching.
“He’s very gifted that way,” Bishop Conley said.
The AskABishop.com website now has quite a few videos and podcasts available. The subject matter is grouped into four main categories: Meaning of Life, Right vs. Wrong, God and Religion and the Church. The site is also searchable by bishop or topic.
“I hope to interview a dozen new bishops every year until I get more help,” Bheemarasetti stated. “Then have all the bishops in the world have a strong presence on the Internet, shepherding their flocks to Our Lord Jesus Christ.”
He added, “Of course, God willing, ‘Ask the Bishop of Rome’ is not too far into the future.”
To realize these ambitions, Bheemarasetti is currently advertising for interns to help with video editing, graphic design, blogging and managing social media. Donors are also needed to sponsor the cost of creating a video or podcast.
AskABishop.com is now established as a non-profit organization. Bishop Conley serves on the board of directors, which meets via Skype regularly to review Bheemarasetti’s progress and statistics on visits to the website.
Bheemarasetti remains fond of the Diocese of Lincoln. He hopes many people here will become regular visitors to AskABishop.com and share its videos and podcasts.
“We all know someone who has questions about life and God,” he said. “Sharing the truth now is only a click away, and each click can bring about the conversion of a soul.”
“This is just one more tool for the New Evangelism,” Bishop Conley agreed, “One more way that the people can be evangelized and catechized by the Church through the bishops.”
For more information, please visit AskABishop.com.