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My Journey: Evangelized by dead people

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Among the most recognizable voices of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is Matt Swaim.

Matt Swaim. (Courtesy Photo)

As host of the Son Rise Morning Show on Sacred Heart Radio, Swaim is heard nationally on EWTN affiliate stations each morning, before hosting a local hour of the show that broadcasts in the greater Cincinnati, Northern Ky., and eastern Indiana region.

Swaim shares the faith on air with thousands each day and with the 10-year anniversary of his conversion on the horizon, he has solid tips for others on how to evangelize.

Swaim was raised a Protestant in a family that loves Christ and the scriptures, but he didn’t come around to Catholicism right away.

“Like everyone else I went through sort of these ‘push back’ years as a teen and in college,” Swaim said, noting that he wanted to discover the truths of his faith himself. His path involved many books, but also relationships that helped ignite a spark of interest in the Catholic faith.

“Most of my relationships were with dead people before I came into the church,” Swaim said.

Eventually Swaim encountered, through her writings, Dorothy Day.

“Here’s this woman who has this love of the history and the liturgy and tradition of the church, and this respect for ecclesial authority that wasn’t blind,” Swaim said. “She called a spade a spade, but still understood that these men who are bishops were in that office as representatives of Christ.”

Swaim still wasn’t ready to commit, but more reading brought up the names of others who’s work he had encountered.

“I found out that A) JRR Tolkien was a Catholic, and B) Sir Alec Guinness, who played Obi Wan Kenobi, was a  convert to Catholicism. At that point I thought, alright, I give up,” Swaim said. “I finally came to the conclusion that this is the church that Christ founded. Really, again, through that literary imagination.”

With the experience of his own faith journey, Swaim stressed the importance of listening in evangelization.

“The tools that are effective for evangelizing are the same tools for conducting a decent radio interview.,” he said. “You ask questions and you listen to what the person has to say. Very often you can come at someone with a script… A lot of evangelistic styles are very scripted in that way. One of the key points when it comes to interviewing people and one of the key points of evangelization is to find out what kind of nerd they are. Find out what they care about and ask them about that. The more you know about them, the more you’ll get a sense of what they’re hungry for.

“One of the greatest things you can do in terms of evangelization is to respect where a person is, and respect that they may be ready to hear some things and not ready to hear other things. If somebody is not ready to hear the meat and potatoes, respect that. You don’t throw algebra at a kid trying to learn his multiplication tables. They’re just not ready. But at the same time, don’t insult the intelligence of someone who is really, really seeking.

“We’re not all marching in one unilateral line, shoulder to shoulder, at the same pace,” Swaim said. “If we were, the good theif wouldn’t have had to ask at the last minute.”

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All of us are on a journey to a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. “My Journey” is a recurring feature of “Contagiously Catholic”, a monthly supplement to The Catholic Telegraph produced by the Office of the New Evangelization to tell the stories of Catholics continuing on a path to communion with Christ.

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This “My Journey” feature originally appeared in the November 2014 print edition of The Catholic Telegraph. Story by John Stegeman.

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