The Rome Boys: Bringing the Message of Faith to the Big Country

Ballinger News Staff

The Rome Boys- Spreading the message of faith

ROWENA, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) — Four years ago, in the small town of Rowena, located in Runnels County, three men embarked on a mission to spread the teachings of Jesus Christ through a religious podcast called ‘The Rome Boys.’ This Catholic group aimed to reach those in need of spiritual guidance. Today, their podcast is paired with a straightforward yet powerful message, which you might have noticed on billboards along the highway.

The Rome Boys, consisting of Joe Mattheson, Tony Frasco, and Chris Martin, initiated their podcast during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, driven by a clear and simple mission.

“When COVID hit, everything just shut down. I think a lot of people really have the mindset that where do we turn to,” Martin explained.

Amid the pandemic-induced uncertainty, more people turned to YouTube and social media platforms for information, seeking alternatives to mainstream media, which many perceived as agenda-driven. Mattheson emphasized this shift, saying, “More people are watching YouTube and social media outlets because they don’t trust mainstream media and they seem to always have an agenda. I guess everybody does have an agenda. Our agenda is to bring Jesus to those who don’t have him.”

If you have traveled along Interstate 20, approaching Abilene from the east, or along Highway 67 from San Angelo to Ballinger, you may have noticed a particular billboard that stands out with its simple, yet profound message.

With over 300 videos on YouTube and a following of 23,000 subscribers, the Rome Boys movement emerged to evangelize not just West Texas but also regions beyond. Tony Frasco, an educator by profession, drew on his experience to design a billboard for a former group of students, which served as the inspiration for the messages displayed today.

Reflecting on the transition from traditional teaching to this new form of outreach, Frasco recounted, “After I got out of the world of teaching, and I’m still teaching, but in a different way, I said, ‘Hey, guys, why don’t we put up billboards?’ So, we did that with one Vacation Bible School here at the parish, and we had one here in our town. Next thing you know, we have put up permanent billboards, and we put up temporary ones in locations from Fresno, California to Abilene, Midland, Brownwood, San Angelo, Wall, and Miles.”

One of their billboards, bearing the message ‘Jesus, I trust in you,’ sparked a life-changing moment for a woman who encountered it.

Martin shared her story: “She said, ‘I’ve never prayed before; I’m not Christian. I wasn’t Christian at the time. I was in the worst day of my life, in the darkest moment of my life, and I came over the Chadbourne overpass, coming into San Angelo. My eyes were full of tears. I shouldn’t have been driving. I look up and I can’t help but read those words, Jesus, I trust in You. I’ve got chills now talking about it. Because this was the first sign, pun intended, the first story that we got to hear. She said it changed my life. I’ve prayed for the people who put up the billboard. She said I’ve never had so much peace in my life that I pray that everybody who sees it gets to experience the same peace that she’s had.”

Father Ryan Rojo, the Director of Vocations and Seminarians for the Diocese of San Angelo, views the Rome Boys as more than just a podcast group. He sees them as a beacon of proactive faith.

“I think they really represent the invitation from the church to take the initiative to satisfy a need that’s obviously out there in the life of the world. I think there’s a temptation for Catholics out there to sit and wait for the clergy to get it all done. For other laymen and women who might be sitting on the sidelines out there thinking to themselves, ‘I can’t make a positive change,’ these guys just saw a need here in their community locally in the diocese and responded generously because they love Christ,” Rojo said.

Looking to the future, the Rome Boys are exploring the possibility of placing a billboard in the heart of Los Angeles. However, they have discovered that leasing a billboard in that area can cost approximately $17,000 per month.

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