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2021.02.26 Fr Mike Russo 2021.02.26 Fr Mike Russo 

Emmy award winning priest on the art of preaching

Emmy Award winning producer and presenter Fr Mike Russo talks about his US online and cable TV series, from its beginnings to its runaway success.

By Lydia O’Kane

What does it take to be a good preacher? That’s what US online and cable TV programme, Sunday to Sunday aims to find out.

The Emmy award winning series identifies gifted preachers who pass along their ideas about the preaching ministry.

The programme was created and is hosted by Fr Mike Russo, retired professor of Communications Studies at Saint Mary's College of California.

He spoke to Vatican Radio about how the series came about and his reaction to winning a coveted Emmy award last year.

Listen to the interview with Fr Mike Russo

From project to production

Fr Russo began working on this TV project well over ten years ago, with the aim of finding “great preachers and how they affect the community.”

He also drew inspiration from another television programme called “Inside the Actors studio”, using the formula from that show to highlight exceptional preaching.

“The whole purpose of the Sunday to Sunday programme, while its meant for a general audience in part, is also meant to be a teaching tool in seminaries,” stresses the award winning producer.

Since its creation, at least 13 episodes have been produced, one of the latest of which looks at how preaching in the parish has had an effect on the lives of parishioners themselves.

The art of a good Homily

Asked if priests have had to “up their game” with regard to how they preach a homily on a Sunday, Fr Russo says that certainly “preparation of the Sunday homily is a major part of what I would call the art and craft and spirituality of preaching. To be a good preacher also means to be an adequate writer.”

Preaching and ministry

Referring to Pope Francis, Fr Russo notes that the Pope recognized right from the beginning that preaching needed to be looked upon as a ministry. “Really the whole Sunday to Sunday project was inspired by his preaching; his preaching to a particular congregation, knowing who they are and meeting the spiritual needs that are there.”

Recognition and awards

When one thinks about winning an Emmy award, it conjures up images of red carpets and stars of the small screen.

However, in June of last year that illustrious roll call of winners included Fr Mike Russo and his team.

So what is it like to win a coveted Emmy Award? According to the producer, it’s one thing to win it, but they also won it within three years of the start of the programme, “which is even more amazing,” he says.

“I always say to people if I told you three years ago that we’d win an Emmy you’d say I was delusional,” he laughs.

Despite the tough competition, Fr Russo says the judges obviously saw they had something of value with this programme.

"It was judged the very week of the George Floyd situation in the States and the judges may have heard something in that which was quite unique. Primarily because I began the interview with [Fr Chris Walsh who is a priest who ministers to a largely African American community in Philadelphia] with a quote from the author Toni Morrision and asked how we as preachers can bring about racial healing… and I think that resonated among the electorate and the voters who voted on our particular award.”

26 February 2021, 09:59