Teresa Tomeo: Culture warrior
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more energetic culture warrior than Teresa Tomeo. The familiar long-time host of Ave Maria Radio’s Catholic Connection, she is also the host of EWTN’s The Catholic View for Women, the author of multiple books, a retreat and pilgrimage leader along with her husband, the founder of her own communications company, a past delegate at the Vatican Women’s Congress, a speaker at the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family, a frequent guest on mainstream networks, and the founder of a new lay movement called Beyond Sunday.
Tomeo spoke with Catholic Digest about her early success in secular broadcasting, her reversion to the Catholic faith, and her commitment to show others the truth, goodness, and beauty of God.
Q: What got you into broadcasting?
A: I heard the broadcasting call at a very early age — 8 or 9 years old. The sisters who taught at my Catholic grade school recognized my gift for gab and encouraged me to pursue a communications career. By the time I was in the eighth grade, I had chosen my college, Central Michigan University, which to this day has an excellent broadcast and journalism program. I had three radio/TV internships in college, and shortly after graduating with my journalism degree in 1981, I began working on air in radio/TV news as an anchor and reporter in my hometown of Detroit. I’ve been working full-time in broadcasting ever since — 38 years.
Q: What made you switch to Catholic broadcasting?
A: It was my reversion to my Catholic faith that cause me to look closely at how I was living my life, including the professional portion of my life. Despite all my success (and I achieved a great deal), winning many awards, and making a very good living, I wasn’t happy. My marriage and other areas of my personal life suffered, and toward the end of my news career in the late ’90’s, I was no longer covering stories of any significance.
The news business, especially the TV news business, was all about money, ratings, and a liberal agenda. My husband and I both felt a calling to do more with our lives. After coming back to the Church, God healed our marriage, and my husband began discerning the diaconate (he was ordained in 2012). I walked away from the secular media in the year 2000 and started my own communications company.
My husband and I both felt a calling to do more with our lives.
Q: Were you rewarded in ways you did not foresee?
A: About the same time, which is all God’s providence, Catholic radio was growing. Al Kresta from Ave Maria Radio and I had become friends, and they were starting a morning show. He asked me to come on board and the rest, as they say, is history. Catholic Connection began in November 2002, and I’ve been with Ave Maria and EWTN for nearly 18 years now.
Q: What is the importance of Catholic radio, especially now in this time of sadness and scandal in the Church? Have you taken your role in a new direction because of these troubled times?
A: Catholic radio, I believe, is an oasis of truth and light. Our direction has been consistent. We educate, inform, edify, and encourage people to keep their eyes on Jesus and to remember the Church is still the Church he founded 2,000 years ago. We respectfully address the issues while helping our listeners understand that we all need to take ownership of helping the Church through this crisis. Archbishop Fulton Sheen always reminded us of the importance of lay involvement. I think we are truly highlighting ways the average Catholic can make a big difference right in their own parish.
Q: Where do you see signs of hope in Catholic radio?
A: Catholic radio is exploding. We now have nearly 400 EWTN affiliates across the U.S., 500 around the world, and this doesn’t even include our online coverage, satellite broadcasts, and our outreach through a variety of apps. We are working with EWTN regularly to expand our reach. Given the constant advances in technology, only the good Lord knows where this will lead, but our outreach, thanks be to God, continues to grow.
Catholic radio, I believe, is an oasis of truth and light. Our direction has been consistent.
Q: Whom do you read, watch, or listen to for your personal and professional growth?
A: Daily I read Magnificat and The Word Among Us. My husband and I do the daily Mass readings every morning. Scripture is very important to us, as we came back to the Church through a Bible study. I love reading the writings of the saints, especially St. Teresa of Ávila (my patron), St. Catherine of Siena, and St. Augustine. I just love the saints, so much so that I wrote a book about this topic, Girlfriends and Other Saints: Companions on My Journey of Faith (The Word Among Us Press, 2016). In terms of contemporary works or writings, I read anything written by Archbishop Charles Chaput and Pope Benedict XVI. I just find them to be so strong, so clear, but at the same time so loving and encouraging in their words.
Q: What inspired your new book Beyond Sunday: Becoming a 24/7 Catholic (Our Sunday Visitor, 2018)? Who is its ideal reader?
Beyond Study: Becoming a 24/7 Catholic is really a movement. That is how my publisher, Our Sunday Visitor, and I see it. We have a companion study guide and an online video series that is geared toward all Catholics, no matter their level of understanding. It will be affirming for the faithful Catholic as well as educational and uplifting for those looking to learn even the most basic tenets of the faith.
It was inspired by a conversation I had with a family member. The conversation took place after my husband’s ordination to the diaconate. This relative, a cradle Catholic, came up to us afterward, very moved by what she saw and heard both at the ordination Mass and at the reception, and said in a very straightforward manner, “You and your friends are the only Catholics I know who take their faith beyond Sunday.”
Bingo! Bells went off, and I knew there was another talk as well as another book, as I so related to what this relative was saying. I had been in her shoes years ago. After a lot of thought and prayer, I developed a talk which became very popular. The book and study series followed soon after.
Q: I think I know the answer to this already: Are there any new projects on the horizon?
A: Yes, actually I do have a brand-new project and area of ministry that I’ve started. It is T’s Italy (TravelItalyExpert.com), a new travel website and blog dedicated to my passion and love for Italy and all things Italian. My husband and I are both full-blooded Italian Americans who are very proud of our roots. Italy means so much to us because it is not only the home of our ethnic heritage but most importantly our faith heritage. We lead pilgrimages there several times of year, and, due to my work as a Catholic talk show host and journalist, I’ve been privileged to visit Italy over 50 times in the last 20 years. As a result, I have accumulated a great deal of knowledge.
T’s Italy is a project designed to help Catholics and others who are considering a trip to Italy. It will offer a variety of helpful content and an opportunity to have a private consultation with me, as well as other travel experts who can assist in everything from scheduling tours and organizing transportation, even booking hotels or apartments, as well as choosing the best restaurants.
I see this as another important part of my work as a Catholic evangelist. Even if someone is interested in traveling there for the art and the food versus the faith aspect, it is still an opportunity to witness to the glory of God based on all the beauty in that land, whether it’s the Sistine Chapel, the rolling hills of Tuscany, or the majestic blue waters along the Amalfi Coast. All of it reveals the glory of God.
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For additional information about all things Teresa Tomeo, visit TeresaTomeo.com.