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John Michael Talbot ministries grow into TV, new house

Donations help produce eight-part series to be broadcast on Church Channel

Published: July 18, 2013   
Dwain Hebda
John Michael Talbot, pictured here at in the library of Little Portion Hermitage in Berryville, is branching into television and a new vocations house.

BERRYVILLE — One of the best-selling and most prolific Catholic musicians is coming to a television channel near you.

Donations have exceeded $10,000 in response to a fundraising appeal by John Michael Talbot, founder of the Brothers and Sisters of Charity, to re-engineer his DVD “Nothing is Impossible” into eight television broadcasts.

“As society continues to move from Judeo-Christian perspectives into secularism and humanism, Catholics can feel like they are fighting a losing battle,” Talbot said in an interview with Arkansas Catholic. “Our broadcasts are meant to be words of encouragement.”

Talbot was urged to consider getting into television after guest appearances on “Live With Passion!” a television show produced and hosted by Father Cedric Pisegna, CP, of Houston. Father Pisegna encouraged Talbot to edit “Nothing is Impossible,” which captures a three-day mission Talbot conducted in Houston, into separate episodes.

Talbot said the expenses involved in bringing the DVD to television total about $15,000. When finished, the programs will air on the Church Channel, owned by Trinity Broadcast Network of Nashville and available via Dish Network and DirectTV satellites as well as select cable systems.

This is his first foray into a project of this type and he declined to speculate if other such projects were in his long-range plans.

“We’ll see how it goes,” he said. “If it pays for itself, it will be worth it.”

These are busy times for Talbot, the former 1970s rock-musician-turned-Catholic-music-artist. Although he no longer does concert tours, at least not on the scale of previous years, he released his 53rd CD, “Worship and Bow Down” in 2011 and two books are soon to be released.

He also hasn’t strayed too far from the road, traveling eight months per year conducting talks and missions coast to coast. The event that became “Nothing is Impossible” is typical of his three-day missions and include his personal testimony, reflections on the Jesus Prayer and Christian meditation and lessons on the liturgy. He said one measuring stick of the success of his television venture will be the impact it has on mission attendance and requests for appearances.

Meanwhile, the Brothers and Sisters of Charity, the community he founded on an Ozark mountaintop in north Arkansas, has expanded to another facility. St. Clare Monastery, a 7,000-square-foot ministry and vocations house on two acres in Houston, opened last summer, home to two Sisters of Charity.

The work of the Brothers and Sisters of Charity — which has included founding and supporting a food bank and thrift store among other projects — is supported entirely by donations, proceeds from sales of Talbot’s print and recorded merchandise, appearance fees and to a lesser extent, groups that use the retreat facilities that are part of the community’s home, Little Portion Hermitage.

Rebuilt in 2010 following a 2008 fire, Little Portion is a thoroughly modern and comfortable facility. Members of the community, currently numbering about 30, go about their daily chores in the bright main building or on the grounds, attend prayer services and Mass in the chapel and generally live a life of quiet and reflection amid mountain rusticity.

Though it sounds idyllic, Talbot said, it isn’t for everyone and the current headcount at Little Portion is leaner than he’d like.

“Most people don’t want to come all the way up here,” Talbot said, noting the occasional encounter with tarantulas, black widows and snakes that are part of mountain life. “They say they do, but then they get here and they see it’s not for them.

“We decided to take our charism and extend it to a broader population base,” he said.

Through his mission appearances, Talbot was particularly impressed with the explosive growth in membership within some Texas parishes and he wanted the next chapter of his community to unfold in the midst of it, particularly a major city. Thus, St. Clare was built and while it is not currently set up as a retreat facility, it doesn’t take much to see the potential for that in the future.

With its completion, Talbot continues to look to the future and carry on, even broaden, the brand of evangelism he’s been preaching for almost 40 years. While the audience for his music has grayed, he’s encouraged by the growing number of Catholic congregations adopting upbeat, energetic and inspirational encounters with God.

“People are hungry for the liturgy and while we shouldn’t become entertainment-oriented, we can entertain through good music and good preaching,” he said. “That ushers people in.”

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