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Lisa Hendey: An Accidental Innovator Who Follows the Spirit

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Founder of CatholicMom.com says she likes to write from her treehouse

Give Lisa Hendey a little prayer time and a laptop and she’s out of the gate before you can blink. The founder of CatholicMom.com and new editor-at-large at Ave Maria Press is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to her ability to use digital media to share the faith and encourage Catholics, especially mothers.

Hendey, a blogger at multiple online venues including Patheos, is the best-selling author of The Grace of Yes, The Handbook for Catholic Moms and A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms. Her latest project is the Chime Travelers, a fictional series of chapter books for elementary school readers based on the lives of the saints. Hendey has produced and hosted numerous TV and radio programs and is the technology contributor for EWTN’s SonRise Morning Show. She writes for many national publications and travels internationally giving talks and workshops on faith, family, and Catholic technology and communications topics.

In 2013, Hendey was selected as an Elizabeth Egan Journalism Fellow and traveled with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in Rwanda to study and write on the aftereffects of the Rwandan genocide. The experience inspired her to launch “World View Wednesday” at CatholicMom.com, to help busy mothers stay informed about what’s going on around the world and be able to prayerfully and materially contribute to global crises and causes.

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Hendey, 52, is a graduate of Notre Dame, where she met her husband, Greg, an emergency medicine physician. Together they have two sons who are now young adults. She spoke to Aleteia’s Zoe Romanowsky from her home office in Fresno, California, about what it means to say yes to the Gospel today, and how she manages to do what she does.

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What was it you were looking for that you couldn’t find when you launched CatholicMom.com in 2000? 

At the time I launched it, my children were in early elementary school and my husband was not Catholic. (He has since come into the Church.) I was the young mom often taking two mischievous boys to Mass by myself and recognized that it was my job to be the primary faith formator of my children — but didn’t understand exactly how to do that. I didn’t start the web site with the sense that I had the answers and would be telling others how to do this; it was more that I felt a need for support and community.

Back then there was no social media, and web sites weren’t blogs — they were very one-directional. One of the earliest things I did was to start a message board which became a community of women who were all facing the same struggles I was. Together we prayed and discussed, laughed and cried, and really talked about how we could give the best of ourselves to this important job of motherhood. Since then the web site has blossomed and we use whatever the latest tools are, but that core mission of celebrating Catholic womanhood— and trying to understand what it means to be a Catholic family — that’s still at the heart of it.

Are you surprised where things have gone, and where the site is now?

Yes, I am. I’m grateful to my husband and sons, because they’ve been so supportive of a mom who was very divided in her attention… My husband has always been very supportive and I’ve always done this from home. But the growth of the site, and what it’s become, is astounding to me, and yet at the same time it’s totally a work of the Holy Spirit. I know that God’s power is limitless and that anything that’s good is the result of offering this to God, hopefully for the right reasons and not to seek any personal recognition, but instead to be there for families like mine.

You’ve been called an “accidental innovator” Do you identify with the term? What does it mean to you? 

Well, “accidental” is correct… because I was a French major in college and I have no technological background. And yet, I’m very curious about these tools we use, and had I the opportunity to go back to college now, I might actually study programming or some kind of technology. So from someone who hated math and science in elementary school, that’s a very big surprise to me! But I’m also so cognizant of the fact that the Church has always used innovative ways to spread the faith, whether that was writing or art or music, and we have to be on the forefront of that.

My intention is always how best to serve the Church and the reader. But often, it’s like, “let’s throw it against the wall and see if it sticks!” And sometimes it doesn’t, but that’s how we learn. But John Paul II, and Scripture before him, says “be not afraid.”

One of your recent books is called The Grace of Yes, and you seem to be living your life that way… taking risks, stepping out, going where you haven’t gone before. Are you, by nature an adventurous person? Or is being led by the Holy Spirit something you’ve grown into? 

I’ve grown into it. I’ve always been curious, someone who loves trying new things, but especially in the last 15 years, it’s just remarkable the doors that have opened by saying yes to God. A big part of the “grace of yes” is this concept that if we really give our yes to God, then we need to be generous spirits. If we’re really followers of Christ, and I’m not talking about finance, though that’s part of it, it’s about how we cultivate an attitude of better loving and serving the world around us. I am always trying to be a “yes” person in my life to God and to others.

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