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No football in Sunday's Catholic TV 'Faith Bowl'

BOSTON

— It's tied by its name and air date to Super Bowl Sunday, but the

Catholic "Faith Bowl" being broadcast nationwide has no link to

football, unless you count talk about the saints.

The

third annual Faith Bowl will run just before and after the Indianapolis

Colts and New Orleans Saints meet to settle Super Bowl XLIV on Sunday.

There's no hype or Hail Mary passes, just former major league All-Star

Mike Piazza and current pro Mike Sweeney talking about faith and family

in a roundtable discussion hosted by former Minnesota Twins reliever

Bobby Keppel.

__IMAGE1__Hollywood-based Family

Theater Productions created the show, and its aim is simple, said the

Rev. Willy Raymond, the Catholic company's national director: to use

high-profile Catholics to reach men and young people with a faith

message at a time when they gather in hordes around the tube.

"It's

no secret if you go into any church on Sunday morning, there are a lot

of men who are missing. ... and especially older people, rather than

younger people," Raymond said. "The audience that's missing is the

audience we are going after with this."

The

Faith Bowl was born after Family Theater began gathering Catholic

athletes and actors for an annual retreat at the Franciscan order's

Serra Retreat Center in Malibu, Calif. It struck them that a show

highlighting the athletes' faith on Super Bowl Sunday would be great

outreach, Raymond said.

Faith Bowl III was taped in November, at the end of this year's retreat.

Professional

athletes live in a hyper-reality of big temptations, but Piazza said

the basic struggles are the same as any Faith Bowl viewer. Catholicism

can offer perspective and a peace that's tough to find, he said.

Piazza,

who is married with two young daughters, said that at the start of his

career, he had an "'I-wanted-to-be-a-rock-star' type of mentality, and

I realized once I got there that it was very empty at times. ... I just

have never been as happy as I have being a good husband and father."

Raymond said no one is pretending the Faith Bowlers have all the answers just because they have celebrity.

"These

guys are not theologians," he said. "They're in the struggle. They're

doing the best they can, and they're good examples of guys that have

made it in one world and still are serious about trying to be disciples

of Christ and good people, good men."

Among

the outlets carrying the Faith Bowl are Boston-based CatholicTV, which

says it's piped into 5 million to 6 million homes via various cable

providers. Another national Catholic broadcaster, Eternal Word

Television Network, is also carrying the program.

No

one is measuring the show's ratings, so it will be impossible to know

whether it's a hit or fails to outdraw an average half-hour of local

cable access TV. Piazza said his hopes for the Faith Bowl are modest.

"To

me, if there's just one person out there who sees this, and says, 'Hey,

I saw Mike, and I thought about it and went back (to church),' that's

pretty much all I need," he said.