I’m happy to call Pat Gohn a sister in Christ and a dear friend. But when it comes to Pat’s writing, I must also admit to being a Gohn disciple and fangirl. Over the past decade, I have watched as Pat successfully launched her Among Women apostolate, ministered to thousands of women worldwide with the launch and retreat ministry of Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious, pursued her credentials as a spiritual director and assumed the helm at CATECHIST magazine. Is there anything my friend Pat can’t teach us about living our faith with authenticity and gusto? I don’t think so!
Today, I’m thrilled to share our recent conversation about Pat’s latest work, All In: Why Belonging to the Catholic Church Matters. I’d call this book a “must read”, but even more so a “must share”. It should be on your bookshelf as an inspirational resource. But you should also gift it to your pastor, your RCIA director and your loved one who is “spiritual but not religious”. I hope your copy becomes as dogeared and highlighted as mine is, and that it gives you a sense of what it means to be joyfully “All In” for Christ and his Church. Enjoy!
Q: Pat, my dear friend, congratulations on the recent publication of All In: Why Belonging to the Catholic Church Matters! Although you have been a contributor with CatholicMom.com for more than ten years now, there may be some readers who don’t know you yet. Please briefly introduce yourself and your family to our readers.
Pat Gohn: Thanks, Lisa! I will always be grateful to you and CatholicMom.com as being one of those early Catholic websites that allowed me to share my writing!
I’ve always been a writer—starting out as a copywriter many years ago in radio and advertising. My writing in the Catholic sphere really started as an extension of the women’s ministry I was part of in my home parish and elsewhere in my diocese. Back then, I worked part-time in a Catholic parish, and my husband, Bob, and I were moving toward those exciting years of launching our three children as young adults. Having older children afforded me the opportunity to go back to college part-time to pursue a masters in theology. I wanted to eventually work for the church full-time.
As the Catholic blogosphere exploded, (and my children were grown) my writing and speaking grew beyond the local diocese. I launched the Among Women podcast in 2009, about six months after I finished my masters in theology and I still produce it today. It’s faith sharing, teaching, and conversation for Catholic women.
While I still love serving women by giving talks or retreats, based on my first book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious, in recent years I’ve gradually shifted to working more as a catechist dedicated to adult faith formation. Besides my day job as the editor of CATECHIST magazine, my most recent book, All In, was an opportunity to explore something that has long been on my heart: reasons why my faith in Christ, and the Catholic Church, makes all the difference in my life.
Q: Not surprisingly, I am a huge fan of this book. How does All In build upon the work you began with Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious and go even deeper? How are you describing the book to readers who are new to your writing?
Gohn: My first book explored the feminine genius and the writings of St. John Paul II. My goal in that book was to connect women with their profound identity as beloved daughters of God, and with the strong gifts that God bestowed on their femininity to show how those gifts play a role in a woman’s mission in God’s plan.
All In builds on the belovedness theme—but this time it’s a book for both women and men. I describe Jesus, the beloved, and how his life and love calls us beloved. Being beloved is tied to belonging, both to God and to the Church.
I understand that All In is a rather ambitious title, and while I wrote it for all Catholics, I had a specific group in mind: those Catholics whose relationship with the Church might be a bit ambiguous, tentative, or wobbly. Sometimes, there is a crisis of confidence with regard to the Church in the hearts and minds of her members or former members.
I’ve met many people who have been disenchanted with the Church. Living in the Archdiocese of Boston where we are living out the post-church-sex-abuse-scandal years, I felt a particular burden to write a book that shares why I still belong to the Church, despite her problems and shortcomings. The book describes where I put my trust and where my confidence lies in the Church. The book is an opportunity for people to take their temperature with regard to belonging to the Church, and perhaps find reasons to stay, or even return, if they have been away.
Q: As with BBB, there is such a personal nature to your narrative. Why is this candor especially critical to the mission of this book?
Gohn: I see my books as conversations. The reader and I are in a relationship. In these pages I’m sharing my personal relationship with God, and my personal experiences of the Church. This is not an academic reference book on the Church. This is one person sharing the beauty she has found and how it has made a difference in her life. It’s like a 9-chapter novena on how one might become a more confident Catholic. But if you do want more of the academic stuff, you can find some of that in the bibliography at the back of the book. As a catechist, I love to direct people to the primary sources that build up our faith!
Q: Although our readers may be primarily female, and you’re so well known for Among Women. How is this book an important extension of your past audience? What is your goal in reaching even more broadly to these readers?
Gohn: My last book was pretty narrowly focused: I was hoping to help women learn about what the Church teaches about women themselves. All In is teaching about the nature and mission of the Church itself. Both books help us discovery deeper truths about our identity as Catholics.
There is so much negativity toward the Church these days that I’ve come to diagnose it as many of us are suffering from “the mud-splashed bride syndrome.” We may have heard that the Church is not only the Body of Christ, but she is the bride of Christ. We want to think of a bride as resplendent, beautiful, and full of grace. Yet, given some people’s misgivings and bad experiences with the Church, a good number of people think that the Church-as-bride needs a serious makeover!
The antidote is knowing Jesus and knowing that he is the bridegroom. Jesus loves the bride, is wedded to the bride, and there will never be a divorce! I spend a lot of time in the book describing this important relationship. Just as Jesus is both divine and human, so is the Church. If all we saw of Jesus was his humanity, we’d be missing out on so much more: Jesus is God and he comes to earth to be our redeemer. If all we see of the Church is her humanity, we miss out on so much more. This book is about “the more”—the Church is both holy and always in need of renewal and purification. It’s important for us to hold these two ideas in tension: that Jesus both loves the Church and works through it, while he also gives the Church the resources and graces to not only heal others, but to heal herself.
The Church is the beloved of Jesus. Hers is an ever-present forgiveness and mercy both to dispense and to receive. The Church knows that Jesus, who is God, is her divine strength, even as her human members are often weak, sinful, or foolish. The unity of Jesus and the Church is a merciful truth that far outweighs the sins of the bride who is forgiven when she repents. (That’s not to say the members of churches are not liable for crimes and misdemeanors within a civil system; her guilty members most certainly are liable.) But in Christ, who is always present, there is always the hope of glory for the Bride.
Q: What are your most important goals for All In?
Gohn: First, to talk about Jesus, the beloved. Second, to unveil the splendor of the Church that I have discovered along the way.
Q: Speaking and teaching are a huge part of your apostolate. Can you tell us how parishes and diocese might be able to parlay All In into teaching opportunities for their faithful?
Gohn: I’m developing a series of talks and a retreat on this subject matter, so I’m happy to discuss future event planning with anyone in a parish or diocese. They can contact me via my website at www. patgohn.net.
People who work in faith formation describe the book as a helpful read for those in RCIA, or a good book to give to people who are entering the Church, or reentering after a time.
My recommendations for parish and diocesan leaders on how to teach some of the important themes discussed in All In can be found at a webinar I did recently with Ave Maria Press. There is also a PowerPoint presentation that offers tips for parish leaders.
Q: I have to ask about CATECHIST magazine, where you serve as editor. How has your position there been going? Did that role have an impact on how you chose to write this book? What does the future hold for CATECHIST and for Pat Gohn?
Gohn: I’ve just completed my first full cycle of publishing CATECHIST—a wonderful magazine of encouragement for parish-based and Catholic school catechists. We are busy planning our new year that will start with the September 2017 issue. Catechist will also celebrate its 50th anniversary with the September issue, so it is an honor to be working there during that milestone.
I finished writing the manuscript of All In before I took the role as editor last summer. It’s a good thing, too, because now I’m quite busy. I think it will be a while before I find time to write another book. But I’m also a bit in the “give back” stage of my life. I’m looking to help support the generation of parents and teachers who are bring up families now. More than ever, I’m pleased to be in a role where I get to work everyday to encourage people to better embrace their Catholic faith, plus help bring the voices of new writers to CATECHIST’s readership.
Q: How might readers best share this book with their loved ones who may be away from the Church or in need of a resource to help them to draw more fully into communion with the Church?
Gohn: Two things I’ve learned over the years:
One: Some of the best evangelism happens via simple conversations person-to- person, one-to-one. Whenever a friend of loved one has taken the time to lovingly share a book (or an article, a piece of music, whatever), I pay attention. When someone says, “I just finished this book, and thought you might also enjoy it,” that says a lot to me. Read the book. If it speaks to you, then share it honestly.
The second thing is this: we don’t convert anyone. The Holy Spirit does. Our job is just to love our neighbor and to pray for them. If you think the Holy Spirit is asking you to share the book, then share it. But remember whose job it is to change hearts and lives. Our call is to the share the good news as best as we’ve come to receive it in our own lives and to live it as best we can. But it is always the Holy Spirit who invites and brings others to the fullness of the Church. There are many steps along the way—just as in farming—there is the breaking up and clearing of the soil, the plowing, the seed planting, the watering, and the cultivating. Sometimes it is hard to be patient for the season of harvesting. But look to the Lord of the Harvest for guidance and peace. If you are willing, he will use you to bring others to him and to the kingdom. This book may be good soil-prep or seed planting.
Q: Are there any additional thoughts or comments you would like to share with our readers?
Gohn: Thank you for this opportunity to discuss All In. I’m also grateful to CatholicMom.com for the book line that you’ve developed over recent years. I’ve been pleased to contribute to The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion as a writer, and to share the recent release of Kate Wicker’s book recently on the Among Women podcast.
I love CatholicMom.com!
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Copyright 2017 Lisa M. Hendey