Tag Archives: Brian Follett

Legates witness history

Double canonization features double themes: Second Vatican Council and the family . . .

cover-june14When the Vatican announced last fall that Pope John Paul II would be raised to the honors of the altar on Mercy Sunday 2014, no one was surprised. In fact, shortly after his death on the eve of Mercy Sunday 2005, the faithful insisted on his canonization.

Italians held signs aloft at his funeral that read “Santo Subito!” or “Sainthood Now!” Nine years later, their demands were met with nearly a million people on hand to witness the largest gathering at the Vatican in history.

Between 800,000 and 1 million people jammed St. Peter’s Square on April 27 spilling out down the Via della Conciliazione all the way to the Tiber River and dozens of squares in Rome, most watching on big screens set up for the canonization of two popes: John Paul and John XXIII.

Witness to history

Don & Michele D’Amour

Don & Michele D’Amour

Dozens of Legatus members were among the pilgrims witnessing history. Not only was it historic in terms of size, but it was the first time the Church has canonized two popes at once — and it was the first canonization with two popes present at the altar, as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI concelebrated the Mass with his successor Pope Francis.

Donald and Michele D’Amour, members of Legatus’ Western Massachusetts Chapter, were in St. Peter’s Square, halfway between the altar and the obelisk.

“It was a powerful and humbling moment for me,” Michele said. “It was humbling to be among all the pilgrims, stretching for miles beyond the Vatican, which really was symbolic of the solidarity in Christ that we have in the universal Church.”

Brian & Bernice Follett

Brian & Bernice Follett

“These newly canonized popes,” Don added, “were great leaders who had the courage to be faithful and make things happen for the good of the Church and the world. In the presence of four popes, you felt the continuity, how they helped each other bring renewal to the Church and bring the gospel to the world. It was inspiring and gave a lot of food for thought.”

Brian and Bernice Follett, members of Legatus’ new chapter in Austin, Texas, watched the canonization ceremony from the roof of a convent adjacent to St. Peter’s Square. The couple attended John Paul’s beatification in 2011, but had a much better view this time around.

“It was a phenomenal experience to have two popes canonized at once and to see Pope Francis and Pope Benedict together,” Brian said. “I remember John Paul’s 1987 visit to Phoenix where I lived after college. I wasn’t practicing my faith much, but I listened to him on the radio. He has meant a lot to me over the years, so this canonization was very special.”

Scott and Lannette Turicchi of Legatus’ Hollywood Chapter brought their three daughters along for the canonization, having a prime spot on the convent roof with the Folletts.

“It was one of those moments in time that you just can’t really describe but you’ll never forget,” said Lannette, who recently wrapped production on her John Paul documentary, The Prophet of Our Time. “For seven years my children watched me make a movie about this pope, so to share the moment with them was very special. They knew they were witnessing something that would never happen again in their lifetime.”

Pope of the family

Scott & Lannette Turicchi

Scott & Lannette Turicchi

In his homily at the canonization Mass, Pope Francis declared John Paul II the “pope of the family” to great applause from the massive congregation. The Holy Father prayed for the new saint’s intercession as the Church prepares for the Synod on the Family in October, saying that “from his place in heaven, he guides and sustains us.”

Speaker and author Jason Evert, who also attended the canonization, told Legatus magazine that John Paul said, in a private conversation many years ago, that if he was remembered by history, he would like to be known as the “pope of the family.”

“When he was called the pope of the family, that was my favorite moment of the whole canonization,” Evert said. “I was thrilled that Pope Francis alluded to that passing conversation that John Paul had. It was how he wanted to be remembered.

“I think it ties in very well with the upcoming synod,” he said, “because John Paul’s writings — in particular the Theology of the Body and his appreciation of human love and his love for families — is really going to play a key role in the synod. The truth is that as the family goes, so goes the whole world.”

Author and theologian Ralph Martin agrees.

“John Paul II actually spent a lot of time with families,” said Martin, a consultor to the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization and member of Legatus’ Ann Arbor Chapter.

“He went on camping trips with young couples and young people, and he encouraged them in the vocation of marriage and family,” Martin said. “He not only taught about it in his post-synodal exhortation Familiaris Consortio (1981), but he modeled it in almost unforgettable images of him loving people, hanging out with lay people, sharing the life of the people.

“Long before Pope Francis ever said, ‘You’ve got to have the smell of the sheep on you,’ John Paul had the smell of the sheep on him,” Martin explained. “He really modeled that in a wonderful way.”

Bookends of Vatican II

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI embraces Pope Francis at the canonization Mass on April 27

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI embraces Pope Francis at the canonization Mass on April 27

The canonization also highlighted the fact that John XXIII, led by the Holy Spirit, called the Second Vatican Council while John Paul II, himself a father of the Council, spent his pontificate explaining and implementing its teachings.

Pope Francis noted in his homily that both new pope saints “lived through the tragic events of the century but were not overwhelmed by them. These were two men of courage, filled with … the Holy Spirit. In [them] there dwelt a living hope and an indescribable joy.”

Evert pointed out that John Paul II — like the first Pope John Paul — took his name from John XXIII and Paul VI, both fathers of the Council.

“These two new saints were bookends of the Second Vatican Council,” he said. “John Paul saw his name as integral to his pontificate, implementing the Council’s directives. Key to that are religious freedom, the role of the Church in the modern world, calling the laity to take part in the New Evangelization, and building a culture of life and civilization of love.”

The confusion that occurred after the Council wasn’t the intended result, Martin observed. “But John Paul got the whole thing back on track and was able to interpret the Council for us. Through his very long pontificate, he was able, issue by issue, to clarify carefully the Council’s teaching and really put us on a solid foundation for its implementation in the future.

“He called the synod of 1985 that was so important in laying down guidelines for how to properly interpret the Council,” he said. “He made a major contribution to safeguarding the fruits of the Council for the Church.”

Lannette Turicchi of Legatus’ Hollywood Chapter expressed hope that the two new saints of Vatican II would inspire the faithful in the years to come.

“I hope it’s a new springtime for the Church,” she said. “Our Church is what we make of it. If we allow apathy, we’ll get apathy. If we promote love, we’ll get love. Whatever our actions are, that’s what’s going to prevail.”

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief.

Saving lives one ad at a time

Legate Brian Follett has mounted a fight for mothers and their babies using the media . . .

Brian and Bernice with their two children

Brian and Bernice with their two children

Sometimes the right pro-life ad really can make all the difference.

Heroic Media founder Brian Follett has seen it happen time and again. His pro-life media company targets geographical markets with a multimedia approach: billboard, TV and Internet ads. The result is, invariably, that the number of women contacting pregnancy help centers skyrockets.

Heroic Media has made a name for itself for both the quality and quantity of its ads. When the company ran a media campaign in Ohio two years ago, they saw the numbers of abortions plummet with 3,000 fewer abortions in the state that year.

Three-fold mission

A member of Legatus’ Orange County Chapter, Follett spent the majority of his professional life running Anchor Foods, which his family sold in 2001. The break from leading a large company led Follett to ponder ways he could “give back.”

“I went on a spiritual retreat and began to think about a construction boycott that I had taken part in against a huge Planned Parenthood facility being built in Austin, Texas,” he said. “I realized then that pro-life media wasn’t being done in Austin.”

Follett, who has a marketing background, slowly discerned God calling him to pro-life media. He founded Majella Cares in 2004. For four years, the organization focused on Texas, spending $2 million on ads — including 7,000 TV commercials and 128 billboards, in addition to Internet ads and radio spots. Abortions dropped 20% in Austin.

After changing the company’s name to Heroic Media, Follett decided to go national in 2008. In the last three years, Heroic has conducted 10 nationwide media campaigns and more than 160 campaigns in 32 states. Heroic is running 24 regional campaigns this fall.

“As a non-profit, we run on a faith-based process,” Follett explained. “We gather as a team every morning at 8 am and pray. The number one thing for us is to place our trust in God.”

Heroic Media has a three-fold mission: “Call for Help” ads connecting women to pregnancy help centers, “Attitude Change” ads getting women to rethink abortion, and ads promoting adoption. When Heroic conducts a campaign in a specific region, the first thing it does is partner with local pro-life groups.

Rev. Joe Young

Rev. Joe Young

“We are all about partners,” said Rev. Joe Young, an evangelical pastor who serves as Heroic’s executive director. “No one group can do it all. It’s biblical for us to work together. When we team our resources, we can do exponential work in any area.”

When Heroic partners with a pregnancy help center, it does client marketing plus promotional TV, Internet, billboard, and mass transit ads for the center.

Heroic’s marketing staff travels the country, conducting market research and focus groups. “Before and after any media campaign, they get very serious statistical numbers,” said Alejandro Bermudez, a Heroic Media board member and president of Catholic News Agency.

For example, Heroic Media conducted a campaign in Pittsburgh from Dec. 1, 2012, to June 23, 2013. The campaign generated 6,849 responses. People responded by web visits, emails, phone calls and direct contacts. Heroic created Google ads, TV ads, transit ads and posters. They discovered that their Google ads produced 73% of all responses.

Young tracks the national response to Heroic’s campaigns, noting that each market responds in a unique way.

“Last year, over 178,000 women responded to our media ads,” he said. “They connected with us through our 24/7 helpline, Option Line. It’s humbling when you think that we are only a staff of 10 people,” Young said.

Adoption option

When Heroic staff began to research the issue of adoption, they discovered that the concept frightened many women.

“Our effectiveness is measured by how these ads speak to target audiences,” Follett explained. “Everything we do is researched. We did a focus group and found that historically, the marketing of adoption scared women into having abortions. But then we discovered that if the ads had language that said, ‘I can choose who will raise my child,’ the attitude towards adoption changed for the better.”

“Our partnership with Heroic has been 100% positive,” said Marc Andreas, vice president of marketing for Bethany Christian Services. “They did the leg work through national TV ad campaigns, and we’ve shared our adoption expertise.”

Andreas recalls the first night they aired a commercial on the Oxygen cable channel last November.

“A woman in Jacksonville, Fla., had four children and was due in a few days with her fifth child. She didn’t have a good family situation and was planning to leave the baby at the hospital,” Andreas said. “When she saw the commercial, her 11-year old son said, ‘You should call that number.’”

The woman called and within two hours someone from Bethany met with her to discuss adoption. They found a pastor in Orlando trying to adopt and facilitated the adoption. Today, the woman is in touch with the pastor’s family because it was an open adoption.

“We have gotten hundreds of phone calls from airing those ads,” Andreas said. “We’ve been able to help so many women dealing with an unplanned pregnancy who had never considered adoption. It’s enabled us to walk them through.”

Legatus connection

Follett’s family has long been connected with Legatus — especially in Green Bay where his brother Mark is a member of the Northeast Wisconsin Chapter.

“Legatus has been an inspiration in so many ways because the work we do is so hard,” Brian Follett said. “It is really helpful when we come together with Legatus members to share our struggles. They have been very supportive.”

While Legatus has helped him keep his passion alive for helping women in crisis pregnancies, Follett says it is stoked from years of cultivating his faith in Jesus Christ and His Church.

“A lot of my passion comes from a trip I took to Medjugorje in 1991,” he explained. “My dad had gone there in 1990 and came back crying whenever he spoke about it. Before that trip, I had only been a Sunday-Mass kind of Catholic, but my heart wasn’t into it. Now, I’m still waiting for my head to catch up.”

That passion has also inspired Follett to take Heroic Media international. In 2011, the company opened operations in Ecuador, Colombia, Chile, Costa Rica, Peru and Mexico as Opciones Heróicas. In Costa Rica, Heroic runs a pregnancy help center. In Ecuador, Heroic is cohosting an international pro-life Congress which uses a “tunnel of love” van, allowing students and adults to walk through and look at interactive videos about fetal development.

“Abortion is still not legal in the majority of Latin American countries,” Bermudez explained. “However, this is exactly why pregnancy help centers are needed. Without them, people will say that women really have no options.”

Giving women and their babies life-affirming options is what Heroic Media is all about, he said, and their ads are quietly making a difference in hundreds of lives every day.

SABRINA ARENA FERRISI is Legatus magazine’s senior staff writer.

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