University president and leading catechist encourage listeners with hopeful podcast

Veronica Novotny

Assistant Editor

“It’s born out of our friendship, but (also) a real desire to help people who are anxious and despairing and confused,” Bob Rice said about his new podcast with the Rev. Dave Pivonka, TOR. “We’re both very sensitive. I think we share a similar pastoral spirit in that sense.”

“They That Hope,” the inaugural podcast of both Rice and Pivonka, premiered Sept. 24 and takes its name from Isaiah 40:31: “They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on eagles’ wings.”

“It’s really fun. … We have a good time with it,” Rice said about the podcast.

Rice met Pivonka in the mid-90s while studying for his master’s degree in theology, and the two became friends while working on the summer Steubenville Conferences together. Rice has since earned a doctorate in theology and has taken up his new role as director of the masters in catechetics and evangelization at Franciscan.

“Father Dave and I knew we worked really well together, and we really feel it’s important to evangelize through the media. That’s when the conversation started: what can we do together?” Rice said. “We didn’t want to do another TV show (like ‘Franciscan Presents’), or something with a lot of production.”

Podcasting was the solution. Doing a podcast together had been a casual idea since Pivonka came back to Franciscan as president in the summer of 2019, but it wasn’t until the following summer that the pair had time to make concrete plans.

“(Pivonka) really made it a priority,” Rice said. “We wanted to have a conversation that might make people less anxious and less scared and more hopeful and more faithful, (and) laugh.”

Rice highlighted that they want to bring peace to listeners through their conversations about current events by keeping the focus on Christ.

“Who knows what’s going to happen in politics? Who knows what’s going to happen in diseases and economics? … But we know Jesus and we know he’s going to bring us through it.”

Rice shared that Pivonka and himself both received similar images in prayer during their discussions about ministry and evangelization through media.

“I’m facing the cross, and Jesus is shining through my back,” said Rice. “And that’s how he wants to do ministry. I don’t need to keep turning around. In fact, if I turn around, I kill the light. I just need to stay focused on Jesus, and then God is going to do things.”

Rice and Pivonka both have passions for evangelizing through media; Pivonka has released two video series, “The Wild Goose” and “Metanoia,” and the film “Sign of Contradiction.”

“One of the beautiful things about the media is the wide reach you can get,” Rice said. “I’m really thrilled that I get to do it with Father Dave, not only because he’s obviously amazing and a wonderful man of God, but it’s something I can do with a friend. I hope that listeners feel like they get to be a part of that friendship. Because real evangelization has to happen in the context of a relationship. I’m not interested in being a talking head.”

Rice’s passion for relational ministry bleeds into the way he approaches podcasting.

“We try to not talk about our listeners in the plural. As best we can, we’re trying to talk to an individual, because an individual is listening,” Rice said.

“I want them to feel like they’re sitting at a table with me and Father Dave, …  that they’re welcomed into the conversation and they leave that conversation just feeling more hopeful, feeling more confident about God’s presence in their life.”

Pivonka and Rice record in what was previously Sandella’s Flatbread Cafe on lower campus and was recently renovated into the George D. Rice Music Center and outfitted with recording equipment.

Rice said that they record new episodes every Monday morning, and the university’s marketing and communications department has the episode ready to go by Wednesday.

“That was one of the passions that Father Dave brought: … It has to be current events. It has to be relevant. We decide on Sunday what we’re gonna talk about Monday,” Rice said. “I’m really grateful that marketing and communications flips it as quickly as it does, that what we say Monday morning is available to the world on Wednesday morning. Because it’s important that we’re talking about the very things that people are worried about.”

“We’re just offering (the podcast) up to the Lord and see what he’ll do with it, and we don’t know what he’ll do with it. … It’s about what God does and it’s what God can do through us if we just keep our eyes fixed on him.”

Listeners can find “They That Hope” on Spotify , iTunes  and most major podcast apps.

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