Churches Offer a ‘Good Word’ by Phone

Wendy Healy Features

NEW YORK — In an age when most communication is online and digital, several Province churches have found that the simplicity of the phone is sometimes the best outreach ministry.

St. Anthony Shrine in Boston and St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City both offer the “Good Word of the Day,” a daily recorded telephone ministry proclaiming the Gospel. 

Varying in length from two minutes in Boston to 30 seconds in New York City, the goal of the long-time ministries is the same: to offer a spiritual message of Christian hope with a Franciscan twist.

Both ministries are popular, with between 130 to 250 people calling each day.

Easy and Handy
“The phone is handy for people,” said Kevin Tortorelli, OFM, who coordinates the ministry for St. Francis of Assisi. “Voice-mail is quick, easy and efficient. It’s worth 30 seconds of someone’s time to call in.”

Kevin, who works with Joseph Juracek, OFM, Hugh Hines, OFM, Felix McGrath, OFM, and Fr. Placid Stroik, OFM, of Assumption BVM Province, a frequent lecturer at the St. Francis Adult School in New York, two nuns and laypeople on the messages, said the ministry fits the modern lifestyle. “It is sort of invisible — you can call in from the moon, if you wanted to.”

Philip O’Shea, OFM, writes and records most of the phone messages for St. Anthony Shrine, and has enjoyed the ministry since 2001. He said Gary Maciag, OFM, recently helped update the phone mail system. Myron McCormick, OFM, also helps with the Good Word as needed. 

Inspiration for Philip’s two-minute messages, which he records in the late afternoon, comes from feast days, Bible verses, or “anything that comes to my mind,” he said. “It gives me something to think about.”

One recent message discussed St. Paul’s understanding of God’s will. 

Philip described how St. Paul tells us that God’s will is our sanctification. “God wants us to be holy,” he said. “God’s will is to be prayerful, listen to your conscience, and to be aware of what your faith calls for.” 

He added: “We want God’s will to coincide with ours. It’s the other way around. These are the kind of things we try to get across.” 

Inspiring and Rewarding
Philip said he spends about a-half-hour a day writing the message, refining and recording it and said it’s time well spent. 

“People call and tell me they’re inspired. It’s rewarding.” Sometimes, they will ask for a written version of the text. 

Many of the calls come in during the week, indicating that people are phoning from their workplace, said Philip. 

Kevin described the shorter 30-second messages at St. Francis of Assisi to be “almost like a fortune cookie.”

He draws his inspiration for the message from the Mass of the day or the daily readings. He said, “Because I do a homily Monday to Friday, I usually just tweak those a bit.”

Other friars have different message styles, he said, often incorporating humor. “Some of the friars are funnier than others.”

Kevin lines up laypeople to record the messages three months in advance. Twelve people take one week each and record the messages for Monday to Friday. 

“The messages are optimistic, upbeat, encouraging and insightful,” he said. “They’re really a ‘good word’ — a nice thing to listen to and to think about during the day.”

To call the shrine’s Good Word, dial 617-542-0502. For St. Francis, call 212-736-9233.

— Wendy Healy, a freelance writer in Danbury, Conn., is a frequent contributor to HNP Today.