What a year it’s been! This September marked 20 full seasons of EWTN’s The Journey Home, and two decades later, we’re still finding wonderful guests with great stories to tell. According to According to site visits, social media activity and your feedback, here were the most popular Journey Home episodes from 2017:
10. Ken Hensley – Former Baptist Minister
Our #10 episode was with Ken Hensley, who serves on the pastoral outreach team with The Coming Home Network. Ken was a rock and roll-loving Southern Californian who suddenly found himself confronted with the claims of Christianity. He began to explore the Bible and various Christian authors privately, afraid he’d be mocked by his friends if they found out what he was reading. As a new Christian, he wanted primarily to go into teaching, but ended up pastoring for a number of years. One day, a member of Ken’s congregation came to him and mentioned he’d been debating with a group out of San Diego called Catholic Answers, and they’d sent him some materials. Imagine Ken’s surprise when he found out one of the tapes was a talk by his friend Scott Hahn- who he’d known as a Presbyterian minister, and had no idea he’d become Catholic!
9. Fr. Timothy Reid – Former Methodist
If there’s one recurring theme to Fr. Timothy Reid’s journey, it’s prayer. His grandmothers were both prayer warriors, and this influenced him to maintain constant communication with God throughout his childhood and into his young adult life. Raised Methodist, with childhood Catholic friends, he didn’t develop an antipathy towards Catholicism until his college years, when he joined an evangelical campus ministry organization. However, it was also during those college years that he began to feel a very strong calling from God as a fruit of his prayer life– first to the Catholic Church, and then to the priesthood.
8. Christopher Zehnder – Former Missouri Synod Lutheran
Christopher was raised in the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, and through it, developed some sense of the value of liturgy and doctrine. But when he was introduced to the “Jesus Movement” as a teenager, he began to question whether the Holy Spirit was really working through the Lutherans, since they didn’t seem as vibrant as these new Christians he was meeting in Bible studies and praise and worship services. Along the way, he decided to start taking Latin classes, and through a series of philosophical discussions with his professor, he came to the understanding that the theologies he’d been exposed to as a young man were valuable, but incomplete, and that the fullness of truth he was seeking could be found in the Catholic Church.
7. Jeff Gardner – Former Mormon and Atheist
Jeff Gardner grew up in a pristine Mormon family, and then his parents’ marriage fell apart. His mother’s subsequent relationship with a black man led to his exclusion from the community, and the racism and hatred his family experienced embittered him against religion in general. As he pursued his academic interests, he hardened into a militant atheist, until his study of Franciscan work with plague victims in the late middle ages and a dream about St. Francis of Assisi himself led him down the path to the Catholic Church.
6. Shaun McAfee – Former Southern Baptist and non-denominational
Shaun McAfee, founder of EpicPew and contributor to Catholic Answers and the National Catholic Register, discusses how the experiences he had during his military service and the development of a relationship with a Catholic counselor played into his decision to join the Church. One of the books that had a major impact on Shaun in his journey was The Faith of our Fathers by Cardinal James Gibbons; you can read it for free here. We hope you enjoy Shaun’s episode as much as we enjoyed having him on!
5. Leila Marie Lawler – Formerly unchurched
Leila’s mother was a fallen-away Methodist, and her father a fallen-away Muslim. By the time Leila came along, they were both secular humanists. Growing up near Princeton without any religion, Leila found herself drawn very much to fairy tales, because she thought that they seemed to capture a spirit of beauty and truth that transcended the world she was living in. When she encountered the world of Narnia, though, she was confused- not knowing Jesus, she didn’t quite get what Aslan was supposed to be. Eventually, her quest for meaning took her to the pages of Scripture, and specifically the Gospels- and when she encountered Jesus in them, she knew that she had to believe.
4. The Journey Home 20th Anniversary Special
Fr. Dwight Longenecker, Al Kresta, and Mother Miriam of the Lamb of God (Rosalind Moss) joined Marcus Grodi to reflect on 20 seasons of Journey Home episodes, and the common themes that come up for people who begin to consider joining or returning to the Catholic Church. This was a special extended episode- there was so much to discuss, EWTN granted us 90 minutes instead of the normal hour that’s usually allotted for the program. It’s a great panel, with great topics- we really enjoyed sharing this commemorative look back at the history of The Journey Home and some of the people who’ve been involved in it for two decades!
3. Barbara Heil – Former Charismatic, Pentecostal, and Word Of Faith
Barbara Heil’s path to full communion with the Catholic Church took a lot of detours! She was baptized Catholic as an infant, but didn’t discover that fact until decades later. As far as Barbara knew, she was what she called a “10th generation heathen.” When some friends invited her to a charismatic prayer service, she accepted Christ, and was immediately on fire for her newfound faith, even going on to pursue ministry training. Along the way, she met some Catholics who were also involved in Charismatic prayer, but she had trouble understanding how they could be truly Spirit-filled AND Catholic at the same time. Eventually, the more she dove into the Catechism, and grew in her love of the Scriptures, she could no longer deny the desire God had placed on her heart to follow Christ into the Catholic Church.
2. Sr. Miriam James Heidland, S.O.L.T. – Revert
Raised by German Catholics in Texas, Sr. Miriam James Heidland was given a foundation of faith, but doesn’t remember having any kind of personal relationship with Jesus growing up. For her, sports were the most important thing in her life. As she entered college on a volleyball scholarship, she began to fall deep into alcoholism, and her life started to spiral out of control. It was the witness of a holy priest that initially helped to awaken faith in her, and start her down a path to religious life with the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity.
1. David Shawkan – Former Muslim
David Shawkan was born Muslim, and grew up in Iraq. His family didn’t have much of a place for Jesus in their devotional life, but he remembers that his mother had a special love for Mary, and even carried a rosary. While David was working away from home, war broke out in Iraq. He returned to his community to find chaos, terrorism, and constant threats against him and his family because of his work as a US contractor. When he was finally able to flee the violence and get his family settled in the United States, he began to ask deeper questions about faith. Who was this God who had been watching over his family and protecting them through so much instability and danger?
After a series of mystical experiences, and a deep dive into the New Testament, David and his family knew they had to be baptized. It was that desire that led them to the steps of the Catholic Church. It’s a powerful episode- we’re not surprised it’s our #1 most popular program from 2017!
Thank you to everyone who has provided the prayers, encouragement and support to make possible our work of assisting people on the journey to Catholicism and sharing their stories with the world, via The Journey Home on EWTN, and through articles, written testimonies, and short videos. After 20 years, we still feel like we’ve only scratched the surface of the stories that are out there!
Did you have any favorite Journey Home episodes from 2016 that didn’t make this year’s Top Ten list? Please share in the comments below!
And if you missed last year’s list, here’s a link to the Top Ten Journey Home episodes of 2016.