I never dreamed this would happen — and I don’t think Mother Angelica did either — but this fall we begin the 20th Season of EWTN’s The Journey Home program! I don’t have the exact number, but I would estimate that I’ve had the great privilege of interviewing close to 900 converts and reverts since that first interview with Dr. Thomas Howard in September 1997. Though The Journey Home is an EWTN program, it has always — and in some ways unintentionally — had a direct relationship with the Coming Home Network International.
Back in the spring of 1993, the “Network” began as a simple newsletter that connected non-Catholic clergy who were on the journey with clergy converts. Three years later, June 1, 1996, was the official start of the now non-profit lay apostolate, with the new name, the Coming Home Network International. I had resigned from Franciscan University of Steubenville specifically to focus full-time on managing the escalating membership of inquirers, converts, reverts, and life-long Catholic supporters. In July of 1996, I was invited to appear on Johnnette Benkovic’s program, The Abundant Life, to talk about the work of the CHNetwork. Dr. Scott Hahn, Jeff Cavins, and Dr. Kenneth Howell appeared with me, and during the taping, the producer for Mother Angelica’s Live program, heard our conversion accounts, and invited Ken and me to come back and do the same on Mother’s program. It was after this appearance in December, 1996, that Mother Angelica and Executive Producer Doug Keck invited me to host a new, weekly live program in which I would interview converts and reverts to the Catholic Church. The program began with Dr. Howard’s interview, and now nineteen years later, the Holy Spirit continues to provide inspiring men and women to tell their stories about how they “came home” to the Church.
For the first twelve years of the live program, I flew every week from Columbus, Ohio, through either Cincinnati or Atlanta, and on to Birmingham, Alabama. There, first on Friday nights and then on Mondays, I would meet briefly with each new guest and then help them tell their stories on live television and field questions via telephone or email. After a night’s sleep, I would grab a plane home in the morning to return to my family, to my work with the CHNetwork, and sometimes to chores on the farm. Though the program has always been EWTN’s program, from the beginning the majority of guests have been members of the CHNetwork. And from the beginning of the broadcast, the membership of the CHNetwork has grown as a direct result of the program.
Then starting in 2009, through the encouragement of EWTN and through your generosity, we were able to build a fully functioning television studio here in the basement of the CHNetwork. We began tentatively taping the programs here, until now our staff produces the entire program — Scott Scholten, producer; Bill Bateson, technical supervisor; Mary Clare Piecynski, emails and prompter; and Jim Anderson and others manning the third camera. Now instead of a two-day trip from Ohio to Alabama, I drive just seven miles from our farm.
So often over the years, viewers and radio listeners (and now internet viewers) have interconnected The Journey Home program with the CHNetwork. This is understandable for many reasons. Some people say, “I love to watch the Coming Home program!” Once when I was at a bishop’s meeting to discuss the work of the CHNetwork, a bishop, whom I didn’t know, passed me, donning his hat and pulling a suitcase, saying, “Well, I guess I’m on my ‘journey home.’”
It is important to state that EWTN and the Coming Home Network International are separate apostolates. However, I do want to emphasize that it is only through your financial support and prayers that the CHNetwork is able to produce The Journey Home program for EWTN in our studio — which you built! Thank you!
I continue to pray that the stories shared on The Journey Home program are an encouragement to your faith, and that by God’s mercy, the program will continue to inspire many to consider, maybe for the first time, the truth and beauty of the Catholic Church.