Fr Nicholas Stephen on the Power of Media
In recent days I whatsapped some resources for World Communications Day to Fr Nicholas Stephen (aka Fr Nick), the creator of the Cahaya Kinabalu Facebook program aired live on Sundays.
In response, he revealed that he was pleasantly surprised that the Facebook program is being watched in many countries in the world including Pakistan. He marveled that the mornings alone would garner more than one thousand viewers, and continues to increase.
Hearing Fr Nick’s beautiful testimony, this writer was reminded of the Holy Father’s message for the 54th World Communications Sunday, which is being celebrated this year on May 24, in which he exhorts us to remember who and what we are in God’s eyes, to bear witness to what the Holy Spirit writes in our hearts, and to reveal that everyone’s story “contains marvelous things.”
Seizing the opportune moment of the forthcoming World Communications Sunday, with the theme of “Storytelling” (Ex 10:2), this writer asked if he is willing to share his experiences on the power of media, to which he said yes.
He began his reflection from Mark 16:15 where Jesus said “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature”. In this context, he now understands that Jesus has already predicted about the role of the media then. With the availability of modern communications gadgets in this era of digital technology, it is not necessary for us to really go out in the literal sense of the word, or be present physically in those places in order to reach the people. With the media at our disposal now, we can reach many people in various places even by just being in our room.
For example, he pointed out that despite the Movement Control Order imposed by the government due to the Covid-19 pandemic, he and his team were able to “go out” and bring the good News through the Media. In fact, the live broadcasting of online Masses has reached thousands in various places and in greater numbers than would ordinarily be found on Sunday Masses. Surely it has positively impacted many.
He ventured to share a whatsapped remark from a group, who spoke of how the live streamed Mass has impacted him personally:
“I believe Fr Nick is in this group. Thank you very much for the Sunday homilies given every Sunday in the Online Masses. They have strengthened and healed our longing for the Word of God since we cannot at the moment physically go to Church. I posted on my facebook wall the schedule for the Sunday morning online Mass at St Peter Claver Ranau. And seeing the post, it prompted another friend of mine to tune in to the online Mass for the first time. He later gave a very good feedback. He said that he was very grateful to be able to follow the online Mass aired live by Cahaya Kinabalu. He was so touched and felt the love of God tremendously through the homily. Thank you once again Fr Nick. May God bless your ministry always. I believe in this saying “What’s the use of the opportunity given us by God in this life if not for God’s service?”
Cahaya Kinabalu was initiated by Fr Nick in early 2017 when he realized that there were outstation chapels which have no road access. Sensing the deep hunger of the catechists for the Word of God, he thought of doing something by way of broadcasting. He started on a small scale with 15 minutes of preaching the Word of God every Sunday, live streamed on Facebook. His main target and intention was to provide help to the outstation catechists, as well as the Extraordinary Communion Ministers from his parish, the Church of St Peter Claver Ranau. They would hear his homily based on the Sunday liturgy, chew on it, and in turn share it with fellow parishioners in their respective chapels in a more dynamic and meaningful way.
Cahaya Kinabalu has reached Singapore, Indonesia and throughout Malaysia. He has received feedback from listeners and viewers that they were inspired by the simple way he preaches the Word of God, using the simple and ordinary language of a typical Sabahan, which people can easily understand and relate with. He delivers both in English and Bahasa Melayu.
Presently, three programs are live streamed on the FB platform of Cahaya Kinabalu:
1. The Online Radio of Cahaya Kinabalu, live 24 hours, airing music and 100 titles of spiritual songs in various languages including Korean. Other programs running on Radio Cahaya Kinabalu include:
10:30 AM – Daily recitation of the Holy Rosary in local languages
12:00 PM – Angelus
3:00 PM – Divine Mercy Prayer
6:00 PM – Angelus followed by evening prayer
Occasionally there are evening talks and inspirational words in both English and Bahasa Melayu.
2. The Online Mass during MCO started on Mar 15 and is still ongoing during weekends and special occasions for as long as the Masses in Churches and places of worship are suspended in order to break the chain of the COVID-19 outbreak.
3. The Online talk show “From the heart of a Shepherd” – This weekly program, also sparked by the MCO, is held every Tuesday beginning at 6:30pm with the streaming of an inspirational video on Catholic beliefs or on the family. The talk proper begins at 7:00pm, lasting for one and a half hours, covering a wide range of topics on family life, on the Blessed Virgin Mary, on the Holy Rosary and other relevant issues, and followed by questions and answers related to Catholic Faith.
Fr Nick has observed that the talk show segment is beneficial to all. Attending an online talk requires no registration, and no renting of halls as compared to attending a normal face to face seminar. In terms of participants, the number of audience is limited in a normal conference, while online talks can draw unlimited followers. He revealed that the evening sessions could easily garner more than eight thousand viewers.
On most occasions, the program creator confessed that he is the Deejay (DJ) for the radio program. From time to time he does invite other priests and seminarians assigned to Ranau parish as guest speakers to share their reflections, but only few have responded. Since MCO, he has encouraged catechists in the parish to share their reflection on the Word of God three times a week, reminding them of the mission to be global catechists.
Looking back, Fr Nick has already been using media from the time of his ordination 23 years ago. He strongly believes in the importance of teamwork in the media ministry. To make media accessible to everyone, he underlines that it needs people who are committed and who share the same vision of proclaiming the Good news.
When the program was first conceived, he wondered what name would be suitable for it. “Cahaya Kinabalu” was inspired by Christ, the Light of the World. True to its name, the program has brought the Light of Christ to thousands of people, right into their homes, and into their hearts, especially in difficult times like MCO.
Positive feedback on how much Cahaya Kinabalu benefitted the program users has encouraged Fr Nick to continue his media ministry, making use of every media tool available to evangelize more people out there.
In the course of his work of evangelization through media, he has experienced how God has intervened by providing him with a support group that is vital for this work of evangelization. He is grateful to God for the four people who are so committed and happy to work and serve in this ministry. Considering himself as their spiritual Father, he always reminds them to carry out the work of evangelization through media with the right motivation, which is, doing everything for the love of God.
In the words of Fr Nick, “I thank God for the wonders He has accomplished through me despite being His simple instrument”.
For those who are new to the Cahaya Kinabalu programs, you may access them through their facebook and youtube address at:
Cahaya Kinabalu has also recently been uploaded to Twitch platform.
Let us continue to tell stories that build, stories that give life, not tear down; stories that rediscover our roots and the strength needed to move forward together. – Pope Francis.
By Sr Bibi FSP, Catholic Sabah