'Steel City Catholic': Faith through a black, gold lens

Monday, November 25, 2019 - Updated: 10:47 am

By MATTHEW PEASLEE Associate Editor

Podcasting is becoming one of the fastest-growing digital communication methods. Podcast series can feature a variety of topics including pop culture, sports, cooking and even the Catholic Church of Pittsburgh.

Bob Waruszewski is one of the founders of “Steel City Catholic,” a podcast about Christ and his church through a black and gold lens.

“It’s been a lot of fun and a nice way to talk to people around the diocese and share our own thoughts about how growing up in devout Catholic families has had a lasting impact on our lives,” said Waruszewski, a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Robinson Township.

Waruszewski and co-host John Paul Hilzendeger, of St. Therese of Lisieux Parish in Munhall, started Season 3 of the podcast in early September. Episodes are usually released weekly, with a more sporadic schedule in the summer. To date, there are 74 episodes of “Steel City Catholic,” and each one can be listened to at steelcitycatholic.podbean.com and on the Podcasts application on iPhones and Android devices.

Each episode has particular themes (like promises, pilgrimages and pumpkin rolls), with a little dose of “Yinzer Catholicism” (like 50 things we love about being Pittsburgh Catholics). Some episodes feature Waruszewski and Hilzendeger discussing workplace issues, the performance of Pittsburgh sports teams, how to handle everyday life as husbands and fathers, and the On Mission for The Church Alive! initiative.

“As we bring resources together and pull together we can build something beautiful,” Waruszewski said. “The positive energy and the ability of multiple churches coming together presents a great opportunity for renewal.”

There’s been episodes on retreat experiences, how to pray with your family and a walk through the Liturgy of the Hours. Waruszewski and Hilzendeger have invited local guests, including several young diocesan priests; Jason Gawaldo, director of faith formation at SS. John and Paul Parish in Franklin Park/Marshall Township; WORD-FM talk show host John Hall; and Erica Gammero, director of the diocesan Department of Liturgy and Worship.

Nationally-known guests have included Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Trevor Williams, Rhonda Gruenewald of Texas-based Vocation Ministry and Richaél Lucero of Catholic Answers. There’s even been some international flair with Nick Will, director of liturgical music at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, and Bishop Richard Umbers, a New Zealand native and auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Sydney, Australia.

“He’s very active on social media and we were following him for a long time,” Waruszewski said. “JP just sent him a message on Twitter and he was excited to call in and talk to us for a little bit. There’s a 16-hour time difference so we were up in the middle of the night, but it was a lot of fun and a cool experience. Bishop Umbers is a great, holy man.”

The conversation with Bishop Umbers has been the most downloaded episode of the “Steel City Catholic” series. Most episodes reach an audience of several hundred listeners. Waruszewski said the podcast has been downloaded by people from all 50 states and a handful of countries. Most listeners, of course, hail from western Pennsylvania.

“The guys at ‘Steel City Catholic’ are so genuine and authentic about their everyday lives, about their faith, about everything,” said Shannon Monaghan. “Listening to them share (their stories) is such a joy.”

“I just found this podcast, and as a Pittsburgher and Catholic father, I love the topics covered and all the great Pittsburgh references,” Jeremy Manke said.

With the start of Season 3, Hilzendeger announced he will be stepping away from the podcast to spend more time with his wife and two young children. In the early stages of recording the podcast, Hilzendeger took advice from tech-savvy friends and invested in the equipment necessary to put on this type of production.

“It takes a lot of effort to do your job (on a podcast) well,” he said. “It’s a really big time commitment and the podcast takes a lot of effort. There’s a lot of prep work that goes into this. Bob knows how to manage this the best way moving forward.

“This has been the most enjoyable hobby that I’ve ever been a part of.”

Waruszewski, also married with two young children, has been proud of the way his editing, conversational and interviewing skills have advanced over the past few years. His friendship with Hilzendeger has grown, too. They met while attending Saint Vincent College and the University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg, respectively, and bonded over their love of Jesus and their similar faith journeys.

Recording their conversations seemed like an interesting next step — and it has taken off from there.

“We just saw a need for a podcast that really shows the practical, nitty-gritty side of living holiness,” Waruszewski said. 

Waruszewski and Hilzendeger say some of their favorite Catholic podcasts include Bishop Robert Barron’s “Word on Fire;” “Council of Trent;” “Catholic Stuff You Should Know;” “Catching Foxes;” and “Clerically Speaking,” hosted by Father Anthony Sciarappa, parochial vicar of Holy Spirit Parish in New Castle; and “Wealth of Marriage,” a podcast hosted by Mike and Megan McCabe, residents of Pittsburgh’s Friendship neighborhood who are active in the Oakland Young Adult Ministry group.

For information about “Steel City Catholic” or to offer feedback, e-mail steelcitycatholic@gmail.com.

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