A billboard will be placed in Times Square promoting The Bible in a Year podcast from Dec. 19-Jan. 9. (Submitted photo)

When the ball drops in Time Square, ushering in the New Year, a neighboring billboard will announce to the world that “The Bible in a Year” podcast tops the Apple charts in all categories. It will also announce a new Spanish-language version the next day.

The enormously popular Bible in a Year Podcast with Fr. Mike Schmitz, featuring Jeff Cavins, debuted Jan. 2 of this year. It quickly shot to the No. 1 position on Apple Podcasts in all categories from Jan. 2-18, and accounts for 3.3 billion hours of listening worldwide.

Produced by Ascension Catholic Faith Formation, part of Ascension Press, the daily podcast recently hit 142 million downloads. Each episode features two to three scriptural readings, a reflection on those readings by Fr. Schmitz and a prayer. Fr. Schmitz is a well-known author and speaker who is also director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries in the Diocese of Duluth.

Instead of reading the Bible linearly, the podcast follows “The Great Adventure Bible Timeline,” which was developed by scripture scholar Jeff Cavins, who was a featured guest on the podcast.

In a Nov. 3 press conference, Ascension announced several new initiatives aimed at highlighting the show’s lasting success and plans to reach even more with God’s Word:

  • A New Year’s Eve billboard in Times Square promoting the podcast at 7th Avenue and 48th Street, New York City, from Dec. 19-Jan. 9;
  • La Biblia en un año Podcast: The Jan. 1 launch of an all-new Spanish-language version of the Bible in a Year podcast with original commentary and a new, native-Spanish speaking host; and
  • “The Bible in a Year Retreat,” a virtual event for Bible in a Year listeners, designed to help Catholics cultivate a lifelong relationship with the Word of God – one that extends far beyond the podcast. (Limited capacity; Feb. 18-20)

Fr. Schmitz said he is grateful that he was able to offer this podcast to help those who felt displaced and disoriented during the COVID-19 lockdowns last year.

“I experienced a conviction in early 2020. I was distracted by all the voices I was pumping in my ears and distressed by the battles everyone is facing with what is going on in our Church, the culture and in our country. I was reading the Book of Judges at the time, and I just realized, this is nothing new. Things are relatively stable compared to our story in the Scriptures,” he said. “That is one of the reasons I wanted to get that biblical worldview out.”

With the challenge of recovering worldview, Fr. Schmitz realized he liked to hear things rather than read, especially when it comes to reading the Bible. He decided to collaborate with Cavins and read the Bible following his Bible timeline.

“We’re humbled by testimonials from people of all walks of life who’ve started to apply a biblical worldview to their lives – gaining clarity on God’s will, overcoming addictions, returning to the sacraments or are converting to Catholicism, renewing marriages and relationships – and many more incredible stories,” Fr. Schmitz said.

The Spanish-language version of the podcast will be produced by the Juan Diego Network, which was awarded a $100,000 grant by the Our Sunday Visitor Institute for Catholic Innovation.

Cavins explained that many have lost their way over the past couple of years and he is excited to play a role in helping others find their way.

“In the last couple of years, in these unprecedented times, people have been really distraught,” Cavins said. “They have lost their North Star, and as a result, they are going into an emotional, financial and social vertigo in their life. They are looking for a brighter future and for someone to trust, and they are not finding that in social media or in government, but they are finding it in the heart of their heavenly father and that he has a plan for their life.”