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“I knew Jesus was worth knowing”

Katie Prejean McGrady

Katie Prejean McGrady

Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 03/05/22

Katie Prejean McGrady on ministry, motherhood, radio work, and her go-to saint.

When Katie Prejean McGrady thinks about her vocation, it all comes back to Jesus. 

“I had a profound encounter with Him,” she said in an interview with Aleteia. “I wanted to serve Him in some way.” She’s grateful that her path led her to work that serves God every day. 

You’ve probably read, watched or listened to something from McGrady. She is an award-winning author, international speaker, podcaster and daily radio show host. Besides all that, she’s a wife and mom of two little girls, Rose and Clare.

McGrady’s path began in youth ministry and high school education for a number of years. Then  she began speaking full time in 2017, and working with Ave Maria Press in 2019 to help create digital and audio content for Ave Explores, a multimedia project on Catholic topics for  people who want to learn more and live their faith in a real, practical way. 

In Spring of 2021, she began hosting The Katie McGrady Show, a daily radio program that  airs every day from 2-4 p.m. ET on The Catholic Channel (Sirius XM 129). On her show, she talks about pop culture, current events, Catholic news, and how to live a life of abundant joy. She introduces listeners to a variety of engaging, dynamic, and profoundly inspiring guests. 

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Aleteia recently had the chance to chat with McGrady about her ministry, motherhood, and so much more. Check out the full conversation below!

What are the best and hardest parts for you when it comes to working in ministry?

Right from the jump – the best and my most favorite part is getting to communicate life changing truths to people who are transformed when they hear that truth. There’s not much better than watching a young person or an old person, or really anyone, begin to understand God’s radical love for them. Getting to be a small (very small) part of that revelation is pretty humbling, and amazing, and a great source of joy. 

But, that can also be a hard part. A lot of my ministry these days (daily radio) is done kind of on my own, in a home office, with listeners out there, but I don’t necessarily see them. I’m live, then the equipment turns off, and I don’t know immediately how the words from that show hit the listeners on the other side … That’s okay, of course. That’s not why I’m necessarily doing it. But it can sometimes be an internal battle of: does anybody care what I’m saying? Heck, do I even care? And grappling with that can be tough at times. 

There’s also the very real struggle of making sure my own heart and prayer life are taken care of. I can’t count “traveling and speaking” or “going live every day” as my spiritual growth. That’s ministry work. It’s good, but traveling to give a keynote cannot count for my prayer or my conversation with the Lord or my own spiritual development.

How has your vocation as a mother influenced and inspired your professional work? 

I know how little time I have as a mom … So, I want to create things that are worth someone’s time. If someone is going to turn it on and listen, I want them to hear only good things. So, being a mom has just really taught me to try and create excellent content that someone would want to read or hear. Sometimes that’s riveting audio content, and sometimes it’s just a good batch of cookies for the neighborhood.

Motherhood also expanded my heart in ways I never expected. I wasn’t always so tender-hearted. But kids – they change you. I went from sort of a stoic pessimist to a soft-hearted optimist nearly overnight, and that honestly shapes the way I can talk about the faith, because it’s all colored by this awareness of a joy that is rooted in the greatest mystery of all: pure, unmatched, life giving love. As a mom I get to glimpse a small bit of that with my girls. And I think it seeps into the stuff I create and do. At least, I hope it does.

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And lastly: motherhood made me more aware of God’s creativity. For us, our family life includes two parents who work outside the home with kids in school and daycare. That’s what God has called us to and how we’re thriving. For others, sometimes it’s one parent who works outside the home and one parent who stays home with kids in school or kids homeschooled or some other creative mashup. For a while I thought we all had to sort of fall in line to a certain type of Catholic life, and that’s bananas to think … the saints were all so varied and unique, and so are Catholic families. Motherhood showed me how distinctly creative God is, and honestly, that makes me want to be creative – to make things, with Him, that show the diversity and uniqueness of all our journeys to heaven. 

What is a Scripture quote that inspires you? 

Oh man, what a tough question! When Jesus is speaking to the Apostles at the Last Supper, sort of preparing them for the chaos they’re about to experience (and chaos it is, but from it comes only the most ordered Truth), He says: “In the world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33).

In some translations, it’s “be of good cheer” instead of “take heart” and those words ring in my head nearly every day. Take heart. Be of good cheer. He’s already won. You can do this.

Do you have a favorite saint, or one you’re especially close to?

I’ve recently become closer to Blessed Chiara Badano, a young girl who died at only 18 from bone cancer. She suffered so much, but so well. And she was so joyful, so beloved by her family and friends. I heard the story that Chiara, knowing her cancer was terminal, would frequently fuss at her parents to not just sit around in her room all day, watching her die, but to remember to live their lives with joy – especially since she knew they’d have to figure out how to live without her soon enough. She was so worried for her parents, in fact, that she made them dinner reservations on Valentine’s Day one year, insisting they go out to eat and not come back til after midnight. She was just so intensely aware of the needs of others, even as she suffered so greatly.

Her dying words were “Bye, mum. Be happy, because I am.”

I don’t know what it is that just attracts me to her … perhaps her joy in suffering. Perhaps her care for her parents. Perhaps the desire to be so close to the movement of the Spirit that she refused morphine so she could offer her hurts for those who did not know Jesus.

She’s become a real friend to me, and an intercessor for my girls. I often find myself asking Chiara to pray for my Rose and Clare to be as joyful, kind, and compassionate as she was. I hope she’s canonized in my lifetime.  

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