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Priest tells stories in Paul Harvey style in new podcast


That's the Word

John Burger - published on 05/14/21

'That's the Word' hopes to inspire people to look at world through eyes of faith.

Although he came from a Jewish family, his Catholic governoress often took young Franz to Mass. So years later, when he and his wife were refugees at a Catholic pilgrimage town, he was at least somewhat familiar with the beliefs and motivations of those who sheltered them.

What he wasn’t so familiar with, however, was the story of the girl who had experienced supernatural visions there. After finally escaping Nazi dominated Europe, Franz made good on his vow to write the girl’s incredible story. The novel he published in his new home in America was made into a major motion picture, which introduced millions of people to the history of the miraculous visions.

Many readers of this website will know “the rest of the story.” But we won’t give it away just yet. Let’s just say it’s the kind of tale that animates a new podcast bringing family friendly stories to listeners, with a view to evangelize. And the inspiration behind it all is one of the most popular personalities of late 20th-century American radio.

“I remember being in the car and hearing this man tell interesting stories, with a nice twist at the end,” said Fr. James Yamauchi, who now tells similar tales on the podcast That’s the Word.He was referring to radio broadcaster Paul Harvey, who died in 2009 and was known for his radio segments titled “The Rest of the Story.” Harvey’s storytelling was “delightful to hear,” said Fr. Yamauchi, who works at a seminary in Irving, Texas. 

It occurred to the priest and his brother, John Peter Yamauchi, that telling such stories could be a way to carry out a mission that’s important to both of them. 

“There are so many people out there, whether they identify as Catholic or not, there’s just a great need to evangelize: Who is Jesus Christ? What are some of the basic things about Christ?” Fr. Yamauchi said in an interview. “One thing we thought of was that everybody loves a story, and that’s what drew us to Paul Harvey.”

After all, in order to proclaim the Kingdom of God, Jesus told parables. And the apostles told stories about what Jesus did.

“It was really by just telling the story of God’s redemption that they brought about the conversion of the known world at that time,” Fr. Yamauchi said.

Love of storytelling

The stories the Yamauchi brothers adopt for the podcast “might not have a Sunday school kind of theme to it, but nevertheless have themes of virtue and moments of grace that can maybe open a door to lead someone to think, ‘I’m interested to learn more about what this priest is talking about,’” Fr. Yamauchi said. “And hopefully that leads them to want to learn more about Jesus.”

That’s the Word, which can be found on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, as well as the brothers’ own website, tells the stories of well-known personalities, revealing their identity only after a tantalizing build-up of clues.

Fr. Yamauchi admits that when the project began, he didn’t know much about podcasting. He has a licentiate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, has served as a priest in parishes and is now associate director of formation at Holy Trinity Catholic Seminary in the Diocese of Dallas. 

But his brother, who has a master’s degree in cybersecurity, certainly did. John Peter produces That’s the Word, and often chats on air with his priest brother after the “big reveal” of who the subject of the story is. Both brothers work on finding interesting tales to tell and in fashioning them into radio monologues. 

“I think the most challenging part of the podcast is finding the best way to convey information in a short amount of time, because the podcast is designed to be under 10 minutes,” Fr. Yamauchi said. “People have busy lives. They can’t just listen to a long podcast. 

“It can be a simple story but it should have enough punch to keep one’s attention — and something that can be formative,” the priest added. 

Readers can judge for themselves by checking out these samples: 

Decoding the Spy

A Trustworthy Imposter

A Young Man Who Couldn’t Get Anything Right

Upcoming episodes have similarly vague titles: 

Campaign Advice from a Tween

The Bishop’s Defeat

A Reunion of Enemies

The Butcher Paper Board Game

Fr. Yamauchi declined to be more specific. But he did reveal the “rest of the story” about the man and his wife who were sheltered in the Catholic pilgrimage town, with which we began this article. Author Franz Werfel and his wife spent time at Lourdes while escaping from the Nazis and learned about St. Bernadette Soubirous. “He was so impressed that he felt, ‘As a writer, I will tell this story if I make it out of Europe,’” Fr. Yamauchi said. “He’s able to escape, he goes to America and writes this story that is adapted into a movie that wins the inaugural Golden Globe Award for Best Picture [and four Oscars]. And that story is called The Song of Bernadette.”

It’s the twist of the story that is meant to get people thinking, perhaps leading to further investigation of the Catholic faith.

“Here you have a Jewish intellectual who is basically trying to save his very life, and amid all of this he was able to reflect on how the Catholics — priests, nuns, people — in Lourdes cared for refugees and sent them on their way,” the priest continued. “On so many levels there, that would give you pause to think, ‘Who is Our Lady of Lourdes? What is this story? Why would someone who is not even Christian be so fascinated by this?’ And on the flip side, how God used someone who is not even Christian to write something like this. Can you imagine nowadays something like The Song of Bernadette would win an Academy Award, let alone be produced in a traditional Hollywood market?”

But it’s great fodder for That’s the Word.

And that, friends, is the rest of the story.

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