The “Catholic Netflix” is expanding in the Diocese of Little Rock this fall.
Thanks to a two-year grant from an anonymous donor, 50 parishes will be able to get access to Formed for all their parishioners for a discounted rate.
Formed is a faith formation website and app with hundreds of Catholic movies, documentaries, audio talks, e-books and sacramental preparation materials. Contributors include Catholic Answers, Sophia Press, Knights of Columbus, Ignatius Press and Lighthouse Catholic Media.
“Our goal is take this great catechesis and Catholic content and make it available in peoples’ homes, on their smartphone. A lot people are listening to it on their way to work, while they are cooking. Stay-at-home moms use the children’s cartoons for their kids,” Dr. Tim Gray, Augustine Institute president, told Arkansas Catholic. “It’s everything from education to entertainment.”
The Augustine Institute, based in a Denver suburb, founded Formed and currently has more than 390,000 users across the globe. While mainly in the United States and Canada, users in 100 other countries are also watching and listening to content in English and Spanish.
Formed has a goal of having one million users in 2018.
Father Erik Pohlmeier, diocesan faith formation director, said he was eager to expand Formed in Arkansas after hearing from many parishes that were asking for religious education grants from Catholic Arkansas Sharing Appeal to pay for the service. Currently 14 parishes in the state are using Formed, but there were more that couldn’t afford the $1,750 annual fee, the priest said.
Father Pohlmeier said Formed executives came forward to say an anonymous donor would pay for more than 50 percent of the fee for two years for 50 parishes or parish clusters.
Pastor, faith formation directors and youth ministers have already been informed about the grants and invited to apply.
“There is other good content out there, but there is no place that has so much content in one place,” Father Pohlmeier. “It makes it flexible for parishes and what they are already doing.”
Dan Donaldson, director of diocesan and strategic partnerships for the Augustine Institute, said larger parishes — with 300 or more families — will be asked to pay only $800 a year. Smaller parishes would have to pay only $400 annually. Father Pohlmeier said the 14 parishes already signed up would be eligible for the discount and another 36 parishes or clusters can sign up for the discount. If $800 or $400 is still not feasible, Father Pohlmeier said CASA grants could be applied to that total.
Anyone interested in learning more can join a free webinar Tuesday, Oct. 17 at 2 p.m.
All 50 parishes receiving the grant are required to send at least two people to a free all-day training in English and Spanish Saturday, Nov. 11 at St. John Center in Little Rock. Augustine Institute will be providing three trainers — Donaldson as well as Sean Dalton, director of evangelization, and Luis Soto, director of Hispanic outreach.
Leaders said Formed can help to supplement sacramental preparation such as baptism, first Communion, confirmation or marriage classes. It can also be used by on-the-go Catholics who want to watch or listen to spiritual materials while they are at home or traveling.
“We are reaching families who are too busy because they have kids and lots of things going on,” Gray said.
He said he finds it interesting that more than 50 percent of their users are men and two-thirds are 50 years old and younger.
Gray said he doesn’t want Catholics to just view the content alone. He said they would love to see families have movie nights or small groups meet to watch a video and have a discussion. Some of the programs have free study guides they can print and share. Youth ministry, religious education, RCIA and marriage groups could find videos to supplement their current programs.
“We want the platform … to lead to more personal engagement,” Gray said. “It is bringing families or small groups together and also at the parishes as well. We want it to be a platform for better personal engagement, not less.”
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