By Jean M. Heimann
As Catholics, most of us have a difficult time sharing our faith story with others. Unlike our Protestant brothers and sisters, we have not been taught to evangelize. Nevertheless, people today are hungry to hear how God is working in and through others. There is a yearning for the truth and a longing for hope in our wounded world. But how can we help others if we cannot even share how God is working in our lives?
Today I would like to share a conversation I had with Nancy HC Ward, a Catholic convert, journalist, blogger and speaker who offers a solution to this dilemma. In her new DVD "Sharing YOUR Faith Story," she tells her own conversion story while coaching her viewers on how to share their stories.
Nancy, I have been enjoying your blog, JoyAlive.net for years. It is both uplifting and inspirational. Now, you have a wonderful new resource, a DVD, entitled “Sharing YOUR Faith Story.” I recently viewed your DVD and it is an excellent resource for evangelization! What motivated you to make this DVD?
Last year Tami Kiser brought together a group of 27 mostly women but a few men in the on-line Catholic Conference for Moms. Each of us recorded a video session. The idea was to provide encouragement to mothers as they watched the videos at home. I’d written about my conversion in bits and pieces on my blog, JoyAlive.net. In fact, conversion stories are an on-going theme of my blog. I wanted to encourage Catholics to share their stories. To do that, I had to share mine. For the Moms conference, I developed a workshop of three talks with a study guide on Sharing YOUR Faith Story. Then I created the DVD to make the workshop available to a wider audience.
Before your conversion, when did you first become drawn to the Catholic Church?
Catholicism was not even on my radar as a Protestant—quite the opposite. My conversion to the Catholic Church was the biggest surprise God ever sprung on me. Looking back, I’m sure that falling in love with a Catholic was the only way he could ever get me into the Catholic Church. I committed my life to him on a Protestant youth retreat when I was 15. I loved my Protestant church. I served in every ministry and worked in the office after high school.
More than anything I wanted a strong Christian marriage. God wanted that for me – in the Catholic Church! He hit me with a thunderbolt of love for a devout Christian man. The trouble was, he was Catholic. My personal faith in God was tied up with the way I worshiped him. I struggled to reconcile my worship of God with my love for a Catholic man. I wanted to be united with him, not only in heart, mind and soul but also in worship. God assured me that he would work things out. That gave me peace in my heart. I married in the Catholic Church but without mass. Three years later I was baptized in the Catholic Church -- after I realized that’s where I belong.
When did you first become interested in sharing your conversion story?
God had to work many years to free me from my reticence to share my faith. He used dozens of people in Bible study groups, retreats, prayer groups and personal conversations to open my heart to share my faith story as they did. I saw their example of obedience to the Holy Spirit. I also saw their indescribable joy when they shared the love of God. That gave me the courage to share my story. I learned how they knew where to begin and end their story, what to say and when.
When did you first become interested in collecting conversion stories?
As a journalist I’m trained to focus on details and search for the truth. Nothing is as authentic as a person’s faith story. This is true whether the person is sharing a conversion or renewal experience. It could be a healing, a miracle or an answered prayer. You can sense light shining in the person’s eyes and feel God’s grace as they tell their story and how God changed them.
For more than 35 years I have collected faith stories for a newsletter and now a website for a Catholic covenant community of people I know and love. Last spring I gave them the seminar. They loved it and began sharing their stories at their parishes. Their prayer support keeps me going.
Three years ago I started collecting conversion stories on my blog. I am getting to know and love these contributors as my sisters and brothers in Christ. Their authenticity inspires me.
Does the Sharing YOUR Faith Story DVD tell the stories you have collected?
It doesn’t. Other people’s stories are not mine to tell. But I can coach them. I’ll probably gather their stories in a book and help them write their own chapter.
In the DVD, I tell my conversion story, and then my renewal story, to demonstrate different ways to tell your story. How to prepare so that you are always ready to tell your story when prompted by the Holy Spirit. I end with a few cautions to help you speak the truth in love—and lots of encouragement. Once you experience the joy that comes with the freedom to express God’s love for you, all self-doubt and self-consciousness will flee. In the telling, you will discover and others will see who you are in Christ.
Thank you, Nancy, for the great interview! I pray that your new DVD is fruitful and that many will use it to assist in telling their faith stories.
Sharing YOUR Faith Story DVD is available on Amazon, CreateSpace eStore and the JOYAlive.net store.
Nancy is hosting a great contest to win a $25 Amazon gift card and a Sharing YOUR Faith Story DVD. Click here for details.
Featured blogs to visit on the tour this week:
Monday, Oct 19 – Winner of first DVD announced on JOYAlive.net and Facebook: Nancy HC Ward
Monday Oct 19 – Lisa Hendey – CatholicMom.com
Tuesday Oct 20 – Jean Heimann - CatholicFire
Wednesday Oct 21 –Barbara Szyszkiewicz – FranciscanMom
Oct 22 – Melanie Jean Juneau – CatholicMom.com, Joy of Nine, Association of Catholic Women Bloggers
Friday Oct 23 – Margaret Rose Realy – Morning Rose Prayer Gardens
Saturday, Oct 24 – Sarah Reinhard – Snoring Scholar
Monday Oct 26 – Contest prize winners for second DVD and $25.00 Amazon.com gift card announced on JOYAlive.net and Facebook Nancy HC Ward.
About the Author:
Jean M. Heimann, M.A. in Theology, is a freelance writer, a psychologist and an educator, a parish presenter and diocesan speaker, and an oblate with the Community of St. John, who is the author of Seven Saints for Seven Virtues. She has been an active blogger for twelve years at the award-winning blog, Catholic Fire. She has also written for six other blogs. She has been a member of the Catholic Writers Guild since its founding. Her articles appear in the National Catholic Register and in numerous other Catholic periodicals.