Like many women – and I assume many men as well – I am finding it a bit overwhelming to discern how much time I spend on the Internet for pleasure’s sake and what sites are worth my precious, seemingly dwindling time. This is a separate issue from the fact that the Internet is part and parcel of my work day. Here I’m referring to the time spent visiting sites that are for my enjoyment, fun, and on the edge of being deemed “necessary.” Daily questions include: what podcasts have a proven track record and are worth downloading and what blogs will be worth visiting?
In fact I wasn’t surprised when a friend recently shared with me information citing Internet addiction by women – we’re talking regular housewives-reading-blogs sort of women – as contributing to a growing reason for divorce. Women following the tweets and blogs of other women have oddly become a phenomenon with dire consequences. Women who feel they are in difficult or failing marriages when compared to their happily blogging counterparts (who only present the very best of themselves) begin to use social networking as a way to “hook” up with people who may fill in what these women believe is missing in their own lives.
So, I am always on the lookout for sites worth knowing about; sites that are using the new Catholic media to evangelize in the ways we are called to by Pope Benedict; sites that share the truth of our faith and the ways in which life allows us to develop virtuous behaviors.
The fun and educational site of Deacon Tom Fox and his wife Dee known as Catholic Vitamins is a delightful site that fits the bill. It has an excellent variety of topics and a great list of guests. Each week features a new “Vitamin” in the form of a topic that corresponds to a particular letter. There are often book giveaways and always topics of interest. Deacon Tom invited me on when the letter was “J” so that I could talk about my book: Our Jewish Roots. I had a wonderful time with Deacon Tom and have since become a regular listener and contributor, which is why I asked Deacon Tom and his wife if they would allow me to interview them about their wonderful apostolate.
Cheryl: It was my good fortune to be a guest on Catholic Vitamins and come to enjoy the work you and your wife Dee are doing! Can you tell us when and why you began your site and how you came up with the truly unique and wonderful name www.CatholicVitamins.com?
Deacon Tom: After attending the 2009 Catholic New Media Conference in Texas, Dee & I were talking on the long drive home. One of the areas that I preach about often is conversion or reversion to the Catholic Faith. I started praying about being pumped up about the faith and what came to me was the idea of doing feature topics and interviews about practices that could restore people’s faith practice. Just a week before, I had been at Franciscan University in Steubenville and had listened to a priest’s powerful reversion experience while at Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. It all just started coming together... vitality, zest, renewal... just like vitamins are supposed to do for us – that’s when, at the end of prayer -- Catholic Vitamins was “born.”
Dee: After discovering and listening to many Catholic podcasts I began to think “Gee, I think we could do this!”
Cheryl: Has the site grown and changed from your original thoughts, designs, and/or conceptions?
Deacon Tom: The website has been the subject of some on-going discussion and sometimes disagreement between Dee and me. I wanted a site that spoke to vitality, to youthfulness, to families-- I think that we’ve achieved that goal.
Dee: I like the colorfulness of the site. I would still like to ‘tweak’ some of the areas a bit and that may come eventually. I think adding the word “Podcast” to the title might help clarify our project to those who might be turned off by just the CV title, thinking it is a site for selling vitamins.
Cheryl: As a writer I know that everything I write has meaning and value but some articles or books stand out in my mind more than others. Is that the case with podcasting? Are there particular podcasts that are near and dear to you both?
Deacon Tom: Our first real show was Catholic Vitamin A for Adoration. Fr. Mark Rutherford was our guest and we received so many comments from people touched by his story. I liked CV J for Joy -- we had Internet friends call in and share about where joy comes from in their lives. We had a musician, Mike Strickland who wrote a song called Spread Joy -- it was posted on YouTube and went viral -- winding up on Good Morning America!
Dee: I too liked the episodes Tom mentioned, but I also loved our CV F-Family 2-part podcast; I always love hearing of real-life family experiences and in a family of 13 children, there were many of those.
Cheryl: How has working together affected your marriage? Are there ways in which you’ve come to see one another differently? Is so, would you mind sharing with us?
Deacon Tom: We try to be ourselves and upbeat. Sometimes we bring our problems and struggles into the show with us. We may see that unfolding and try to do something-- re-record a segment or change our approach.
Dee: Doing this project together makes us practice patience with each other on a weekly basis!
Cheryl: What sort of feedback do you receive in regards to your work and how has that affected both what you do and how you serve God?
Deacon Tom and Dee: We’re both like sponges -- we can’t get enough feedback. And almost all of what we get is nice to hear -- nice to receive. One young mother wrote to us from Germany (I believe it was). She had a troubled late term pregnancy and was on forced bed rest. She happily wrote to us after the baby was born to tell us she listened several times to the Catholic Family show because it reminded her of what it meant to give the gift of self as a parent. We are surprised when people pick us up all over the world! Then, as is probably the case in most situations, we may never hear from listeners until they are touched with a certain topic -- or a guest speaks to them in a special way.
Cheryl: Do you have any particular thoughts or words of wisdom that you both would like to share with our readers?
Deacon Tom: For me, the secret to success was finding Dee. Dee went through all four years of deacon formation classes with me and attended all days of spiritual formation! Then for our Catholic Vitamins venture, even if she was hesitant in the beginning, she has taken ownership of the show and her parts. She is often surprised at the ways we touch people’s lives.
Cheryl: Dee, I always like for a woman to get in the last line, and wondered if you could give us some parting words of wisdom.
Dee: When we are young, and in love, and get married we really have no idea what our future will hold. Being married for 46 years, as we have, we look back with amazement at the paths our lives have taken. Tom's call to the Diaconate was something I would never have imagined, but once that 'call' presented itself, I couldn't see myself being anything but supportive to this vocation. Going through the 4-year Diaconate process by his side was rewarding for me as well. The vocation of marriage should also be one of support for each other (and throw in lots of laughs along the journey!).