Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

Catholic evangelization hits a high note. In November of 2012, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released its strategic plan for 2013-2016 titled “The New Evangelization/Journey with Christ: Faith-Worship-Witness.” In it, the bishops urged US Catholics to encounter Christ more fully through greater participation in a community that focuses on marriage, the family and the life and dignity of the human person.

Toward that end Te Deum Ministries has created Array of Hope, a traveling two-hour multi-media extravaganza that features multiple musical acts, motivational speakers and thought-provoking film presentations designed to engage the entire family in an entertaining night out while passing on a Catholic perspective of life and family issues to a new generation. The show emphasizes the importance of marriage and family life, as well as the sanctity and dignity of all human life, via uplifting music, thought-provoking films with inspirational messages and enlightening talks focused on Christ’s message of faith, hope and love.

The unique concert experience features Sacred Road, a rising faith-infused rock band whose chart-topping first single, I Need an Angel, has been played on over 200 stations worldwide.  Array of Hope also includes Aaron Thompson, a 20-year Catholic ministry veteran and versatile musician with five albums to his credit and a revolving lineup of charismatic speakers that includes Chris Padgett, an established Catholic performer, author, speaker and singer-songwriter who is known for his inspiring talks that engage people of all ages. And then there’s The Costa Crew, a sort of Catholic Partridge Family comprised of the talented offspring of   producer Mario Costabile.

One of the co-creators of Array of Hope, Papa Costa has been a successful music and video producer for over 25 years. His varied television credits include work for MTV, VH1, FuseH, Discovery Channel and Syfy. Other big-name employers have included Yamaha Music, Sony Music, Def Jam Records, and Universal Music. He has also produced traveling Broadway shows. He has run his successful multimedia production company since 1984, the same year he married his wife Susan. Together the couple has produced five kids. As a practicing Catholic, Mario wants pass his faith on to his own kids and to help other Catholic parents to the same. Hence, his decision to take on Array of Hope.   I recently had the opportunity to ask him about Array of Hope, which he produced through Te Deum Ministries, an organization committed to creating faith-centered media for Catholic families. Mario is a board member of the group.

JWK:   What is Array of Hope and how did it come about?

MARIO COSTABILE: Array of Hope is a wide-ranging concert experience that features multiple musical acts, motivational speakers and thought-provoking film presentations that joyously provide a counterweight to the negative media surrounding today’s society. It brings Christ’s message of faith, hope and love to its audiences. It especially celebrates an appreciation of the family that is so often denigrated in today’s music, movies, TV, radio and the Internet. The show’s key themes are the sanctity of life, the importance of God in the family and the loving support prayer can bring to the spiritual and emotional development of us and our children.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in its strategic plan for 2013-2016 titled The New Evangelization/Journey with Christ: Faith-Worship-Witness, is exhorting Catholics to develop a deeper relationship with Christ by calling them to participate in a more vibrant community life that focuses on faith, worship and witness. Array of Hope specifically addresses in their performances each aspect of the Bishops’ plan:

Faith: Array of Hope contributes to this portion of the bishops’ plan by strengthening Catholics’ relationship with Christ through powerful music that glorifies Him and His Church; film presentations with inspirational messages that challenge us to deepen our faith; and enlightening talks focused on Christ’s message of faith, hope and love.

Worship: Array of Hope provides uplifting music and talks that help turn our hearts and minds toward Christ and develop a greater appreciation for our vocational calling.

Witness: Array of Hope’s performers deliver stimulating talks and presentations that remind us of the importance of being personal witnesses to Christ and transforming society through living and sharing the beauty of the Catholic faith, with a focus on marriage and the sanctity of all human life.

JWK:  What do you hope it accomplishes?

MC: The ultimate goal of Array of Hope is to plant the seed of the love of the Lord, Jesus Christ, in the hearts of all Christians, and to offer some formation and insight of our faith through a joyous, entertaining program that they will remember throughout their lives.

JWK: Is Array of Hope aimed strictly at young Catholics?

MC: Although it is aimed at teenagers and young adults, it is truly a family show. Anyone can see it and enjoy it and gain benefit from its message. We do talk about Catholic topics and try to enlighten the audience to their faith.

JWK: Can you tell me a bit about the mission of Te Deum Ministries and your role in the organization?

MC: Te Deum was started by me and my business partner, Greg Freeborg. It is a religious organization created to address the degradation of our culture and the lack of spirituality that exists all around us today by bringing Christ’s message of Faith, Hope and Love to as many people as possible.

The majority of individuals in our society today are greatly affected by different aspects of the media.

Music, video, the Internet, television and movies all are seen and heard on a regular basis. So often the messages put forth run counter to the teachings of Christ and the manifestation of these messages in individual’s lives can cause countless pain and problems.

Te Deum Ministries uses different forms of media to reach out and connect with people dealing with these problems and issues.

By acknowledging the pain and hurt occurring in the lives of so many and by advancing solutions founded in the love of Christ, possibly a profound change can come about and make the world a more loving and compassionate place to live our lives.

JWK: The Costa Crew — which includes Michael, Paul, Lauren and Nicky Costabile — is among those performing as part of Array of Hope.  I take it they’re your children. As a father, how does it feel to see your kids performing on stage and espousing the values you taught them?

MC: I certainly am very proud of the fact that they are involved.  As a father, the greatest gift you can give your children is their faith. Our Lord has entrusted all of us as parents to teach our children about Jesus and to show them that true happiness and fulfillment is to live a life with our Lord.

I’m blessed that Array of Hope has helped me, in part, to accomplish this. There are so many distractions and forces today that pull families apart. One of the secrets I’ve learned as a parent in keeping a family together is to regularly do something together that everyone enjoys.  Music has been that common bond in my family. Array of Hope is one of those things we all do together, and the fact that it also shares our faith together is such a gift and a blessing for my family.

JWK:  Do you feel that the secular media is actually, in a way, hostile to Catholic values?

MC: Yes, so much of what is seen and heard in all forms of media today directly goes against our Catholic principles and beliefs. While most have a basic understanding of good morals, we are being invaded with this harmful message that is constant. We have become callous that our secular media has become so sexual, violent, and denigrating towards women that we’re become numb to its everyday occurrence. What is most hurtful is towards our children.  The media is sending the wrong message, and as parents we are allowing its acceptance into our lives to happen. It has become expected that almost everything is accepted.  Our moral barometer is broken.

JWK: As a successful producer for MTV, VH1, FuseH, Discovery Channel and Syfy, do you ever find it difficult to balance what you believe with the demands of the secular media?

Balance in life is always challenging. It is difficult having to turn away work. I’m self-employed, and if I don’t work, I cannot provide for my family. It’s difficult. But as I become more insightful and faithful, I try to trust in the Lord that He will provide in the times that I need to pass on projects that are in conflict with my beliefs.  Some of my business contacts have stopped working with me, and I have lost opportunities that might have created income and advancement in the entertainment business. I often reflect on the life of some of the saints, that they were often misunderstood and ridiculed about their principles. That makes me feel good knowing that many have experienced this, and they all at some time in their lives had to draw the line in the sand and cross over to the side of commitment. It’s not easy. I pray every day that God gives me strength and helps me remain convicted. I believe that, as Christians, at some point in our lives, we all need to draw the line in the sand. If we don’t, that line eventually goes away and we become part of the broken barometer.

JWK:  Beyond Array of Hope, how can the Church better engage the media — through music, movies, TV and the Internet — to present a positive message that can compete for the hearts and minds of the young generation?

MC: I think the Church needs to engage the laity. We need to find people that are excellent at creating music, movies, TV, etc., and use their talents in a positive way for the Church. Bring attention to things that are happening in our society, the many issues regarding the dignity of life and the threat we are all facing with our religious freedoms.  Regarding how we present ourselves in the media, through TV, movies and music, as Catholics we seem to accept mediocrity. Why? Other denominations spend millions of dollars on their media presentations in their churches to engage their congregation.  Most Christian concerts are not Catholic based. Why?  Do Catholics not like music?  I don’t think so. We need to meet young people where they are at. It’s a very media-savvy world and the secular media does this very well.  Their influence is obvious.  We need to compete.  And there is no reason why we can’t.

Essentially, that’s why Array of Hope was born.   The Lord touched our hearts to bring this excitement to our Church, to evangelize differently to Catholics. People are searching. I believe there is a great hunger for salvation out there today.

JWK: What’s next for you as a producer?

MC: To make Array of Hope a household name, and to bring people to the church who have left, to heal hearts and lives, and to make great music and videos along the way.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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