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PJ and Elizabeth Arway, parishioners at Most Sacred Heart in Eureka, started “The Heart of Eureka” podcast “to use real-life stories to bring people closer to God and create a sense of community.”
PJ and Elizabeth Arway, parishioners at Most Sacred Heart in Eureka, started “The Heart of Eureka” podcast “to use real-life stories to bring people closer to God and create a sense of community.”
Photo Credit: Jacob Wiegand

Most Sacred Heart parishioners follow Holy Spirit’s nudge to reach others through podcast

‘The Heart of Eureka’ features personal witnesses from Most Sacred Heart parishioners

After decades of running businesses and raising a family, Mike Branson has some wisdom to share.

For one: Learning to recognize the working of the Holy Spirit in everyday life is vital.

“God’s talking to you. Listen to Him,” Branson said. “Now I realize, that’s the Holy Spirit talking to me. I can feel it, I know it, I sense it — the right thing to do, and you just do it.”

Branson is one of several parishioners at Most Sacred Heart in Eureka who have shared their personal witnesses on “The Heart of Eureka” podcast, a new initiative hosted by fellow parishioners PJ and Elizabeth Arway. The podcast’s mission is to use real-life stories to bring people closer to God and create a sense of community.

“That’s the kind of thing that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you are in life, the message is: You’ve got to be willing to accept whatever way the Holy Spirit is being thrust upon you,” PJ replied to Branson.

For the Arways, that was a podcast.

Elizabeth said the Holy Spirit moved them over several months, but seeds were planted during the All Things New pastoral planning process and renewed focus on evangelization.

“Something that’s really unique about the actual physical building here (at Most Sacred Heart) — you know, this is a big Catholic Church sitting up on a hill,” Elizabeth said. “We’re expecting people to come up the hill, come in the door. If you were not raised Catholic or been around Catholicism, that is a really, really scary drive up.”

“There’s a lot of things holding people back to walk in the door,” she continued. “So we need to go to the people.”

She felt another nudge while watching “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”, a documentary on Fred Rodgers. She was so touched by the way that Mr. Rodgers was able to tap into new technology — at that time, television — to reach children and families and encourage community.

“And that led Elizabeth to say, hey: podcasts. This is an untapped potential” in our current age, PJ said.

With that idea on their minds, they heard a homily from Father Joe Kempf not long after encouraging his parishioners to be a light to others.

“If you’re outside the Church, and you’re off the hill, and you’re in a neighborhood, and you’re thinking, OK, maybe we do need to find a religion, we need to find a place to go, and they’re trying to consider maybe that avenue — having a personal connection is going to get you there,” Elizabeth said. “And nowadays, that personal connection may not be the actual face-to-face neighbor, but it could be relating to somebody on the podcast.”

The Arways worked with Father Kempf and lay pastoral associate Melinda Kruper to refine the topics for the first season and brainstorm parishioners to interview. After forming a podcast team to help with production, they recorded season one episodes last summer from a studio set up in the Most Sacred Heart library.

The first episode was an interview with Don Grimshaw, who shared his experiences as a caregiver for his late mother and wife for many years. Other season one episodes feature interviews on more aspects of caregiving, bereavement and wisdom.

“My dream is that someone who is going through a really hard time runs into Don (Grimshaw) in the parking lot at Walmart and has a moment,” Elizabeth said. “How amazing could that be, that after these interviews, they continue to get to share their stories more and help people more?”

By design, the Arways appear minimally in the episodes. They emphasize that the podcast is not about them; it’s about making space for others to share their witnesses and create connections. The photos that accompany the episodes show the interviewee’s face, not theirs.

“We’re trying to lift up other people, the people whose stories have an impact on others,” PJ said. “We’re just a vehicle. We don’t get caught up in anything as hosts. There’s no agenda on our part — the agenda is, you talk and tell your story.”

Each episode ends with a short reflection and call to action from Father Kempf and an invitation to visit the Most Sacred Heart website for more information.

“So the outro — that’s a term I learned — gives me a chance to offer some perspective for us as we go forward, and sometimes put people’s stories in the slightly bigger context of all of us,” Father Kempf said. “…I do believe when we can see ourselves in each other, even though my story is different, it both normalizes my joys, hopes, struggles, and gives me some perspective for my living.”

Before every interview, they ask the Holy Spirit to guide the conversation and bring the podcast to the people who need to hear it.

The Arways plan to record season two episodes this summer. Beyond that, it’s up to the Holy Spirit, they said.

“We’re just very humbled that we get to be carriers of this message,” Elizabeth said.

‘The Heart of Eureka’ podcast

“The Heart of Eureka” podcast’s mission is to use real-life stories to bring people closer to God and create a sense of community. Hosted by PJ and Elizabeth Arway, each episode of Season 1 features parishioners from Most Sacred Heart in Eureka and a message from pastor Father Joe Kempf. To listen to episodes, visit theheartofeureka.com,  or find the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or Amazon Music.

Podcast resources

“The Heart of Eureka” podcast team has put together a Google Drive folder with documents detailing their process, questions, equipment and more. The Arways hope that the information could be useful to another parish or group wanting to start a podcast.

To get in touch, visit theheartofeureka.com and click “Contact Us.”

More from Most Sacred Heart

Father Joe Kempf’s homilies and messages for children are available on the Most Sacred Heart Parish website, as well as livestreamed daily and Sunday Mass. Visit sacredhearteureka.org/faith.

Father Kempf’s latest book was recently published: “Are You Good Enough Yet? A book for perfectionists and all who try too hard or worry too much.” For more information, visit https://stlreview.com/3TwKigM

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