Beliefnet
Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s this week’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith and media.

alexisA Conversation with Alexis Walkenstein, new host of Mary’s Touch. I’ve worked with Alexis on getting out the word on many faith-related media projects she’s had a hand in promoting, most recently the hit film The Shack. Now, she’s going a bit more public about her own faith, as the new host of Mary’s Touch, a long-running weekly radio program focusing on Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and the personal stories of people who have taken her into their hearts. I recently asked her about her new role.

JWK: TELL ME ABOUT MARY’S TOUCH. WHAT IS IT AND WHAT IS IT ABOUT?

ALEXIS WALKENSTEIN:  Mary’s Touch is a weekly syndicated Catholic radio show that is broadcast on over 100 stations worldwide. Mary’s Touch was founded by a beautifully holy and innovative woman named Cheri Lomonte who hosted the show for a decade with her co-host Fr. Jim Evans. The show is dedicated to Our Lady, the Mother of God and aims to lead the audience closer to Jesus through Mary. This year, Mary’s Touch was named best National Radio Program by the Catholic Academy for Communications and we will accept a Gabriel Award later this month in Quebec. This is the third Gabriel Award for Mary’s Touch and is a testimony to the legacy of evangelization built by Cheri! The half hour show features interesting Catholics from around the world – people who are living the faith and have unique stories of conversion, personal witness. The guests share in the many ways they are called to live their Catholic faith with special emphasis on Marian devotion. The show is produced in Austin, TX. Any radio station or diocese that wants to broadcast on radio or position the show online, Mary’s Touch will provide the programs at no cost. 
            
JWK: AS A PUBLIC RELATIONS PRO IN WORKING IN HOLLYWOOD, HOW DID YOU FIND YOURSELF IN THE HOST’S CHAIR ON A RADIO SHOW ABOUT MARY? DID YOU HAVE A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE?

AW: Several years ago I met Cheri through my public relations work when I was promoting her apostolate, the Frontline Faith Project. Cheri was always a powerful influence in my life, a generous woman of God who I admired in the way she inspired such anointed ministry. She continually and generously supported all my latest endeavors with prayer. Cheri is a true spiritual mother and we stayed in contact through the years. This year, Susana Garza, the executive director for Mary’s Touch, Inc. approached me and asked me to consider taking on the role of show host when Cheri retired. It was the most fun surprise of this year! I recently finished a 54 day Rosary novena to Our Lady and one of my prayers was that the Lord establish a new platform for evangelization where I could help others encounter the truth of our faith in today’s culture and this came directly out of God’s hand with Our Lady behind all of it. Cheri is still involved and very active with Frontline Faith so it’s a blessing to continue to have her friendship and support. 
 
JWK: HAS IT BEEN A DAUNTING TASK TO TAKE-OVER A PROGRAM THAT HAS BEEN AIRING SUCCESSFULLY FOR TEN YEARS?

AW: No! Just a wild adventure! I recently moved to Los Angeles – my move to Los Angeles in 2015 and the addition of Mary’s Touch in 2017 have been two of the greatest blessings of my life! God has just blessed me with a holy community of women and men who are on fire for Christ and with a platform for modern evangelization. So God has given me this incredible new spiritual family on top of all the blessings here in Los Angeles, and because it’s ultimately His work, I am leaning on Mother Mary to send me the guests and topics that the Lord wants to feature. It’s incredible to see Heaven’s response to this prayer. I’m recording at a new studio in the heart of LA in conjunction with the Block House in Austin, TX where the show is produced and it’s a fun adventure to bring this witness of faith to the heart of the media culture and arts community in Hollywood. What is success to our Lord? It’s being faithful to His call. So, I just want to be faithful in my response to this invitation and do a little, and a little, and a little to lead others to the heart of God. 
 
JWK: WHAT IS IT ABOUT MARY THAT PEOPLE RELATE TO IN SUCH A PERSONAL WAY – WOMEN AND MEN?
 
AW: Well, she was a real human being and because of Christ, Mary is the mother of us all, so I think in that simple way, she’s our common denominator. People forget that we are all brothers and sisters in one family under God. For some who may not have had a good or healthy relationship with their mother, it might be a leap to consider that we have this Mother in heaven that we can trust and to let all our hopes, dreams, struggles and desires, pass through her heart to Christ and serve as an intermediary for us . Mary is a real person, and she was given to the Church at the foot of the Cross when Jesus said to his beloved disciple John, “Behold your mother!” We all receive Mary to the level that we want to receive her. When we invite her into our lives, she truly helps us live in the Divine Will of her Son so that we can be joyful, holy and find our way to Heaven no matter what the obstacles. This is the goal for all of us. 

JWK: TELL US SOME OF THE STORIES THAT YOU HAVE HEARD SO FAR ON MARY’S TOUCH
AW: We have had some fantastic guests on the show and audiences are really responding. We recently spoke with Colin Nykaza who has a beautiful devotion to Our Lady and works to evangelize young adults in New York under Cardinal Dolan.
(Colin’s story is here.)

As a communicator, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen is near and dear to me – so this past week we featured Rosemarie Holliger Costello, cousin of Ven. Fulton J. Sheen, the New York Emmy Award Winning Bishop on track for sainthood. Pretty cool to have the family of Bishop Sheen on the show! Rose shared about a little known gift that Sheen had (and has as an intercessor) – the gift of matchmaking!

(Listen to Rose’s personal testimony about her cousin Bishop Sheen here.)

Sean O’Hare, an entrepreneur in Manhattan came on the show to talk about his work with Tim Tebow and the Night To Shine special needs prom. Sean is a man who is building a culture of life in the Big Apple. He also shares about a powerful experience that he had at Lourdes, France.(Listen to Sean here.)

This weekend we will air our show with Danielle Bean, a wife and mom working to help other women know their worth and next we feature a man named Frank Kelly from Boston, MA. Frank was electrocuted with a lethal dose of electricity and left for dead  – he not only lived but he had a supernatural experience with Saint Padre Pio and Jesus that transformed his life. Frank now shares his faith and gift of healing around the world. Upcoming I will feature guests who are living the faith in Hollywood and doing huge things in the industry while living a bold witness as Christians. I will also feature real men and women living a powerful witness of faith in the every day life. I want this show to appeal to both women and the men. So we are doing to do a show on true masculinity and how to live out those God given traits. I think the ladies will be interested in that show too!

 
JWK: MARY IS SOMETIMES CALLED THE UNDOER OF KNOTS. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN AND HOW CAN MARY HELP UNDO THE KNOTS OF OUR LIVES

AW: This is a beautiful title for Our Lady as she is the “new” Eve. What Eve tied up in knots in disobedience in the Garden of Eden, Mary comes to untie that knot with her obedience and Fiat to our Lord. The Annunciation passage in scripture is my favorite because it’s the point where we encounter Mary and how God invited her to collaborate with Him in the work of Salvation. He invites her to participate and that invitation requires a response. Her “yes” and collaboration with God’s grace sets us free. There is a beautiful novena to Our Lady of Undoer of Knots that the Holy Father is promoting and it’s very powerful. I feel like this is a devotion for our time. If there are any knots of confusion, sin or brokenness in your life, when you entrust these areas of your life to her, she will undo the “ribbon” of your life and enable you to say “yes” to the things of heaven and “no” to the things that are ultimately not of God.  Mary’s “yes” is the model for how we are all to live in radical trust and ready response to God’s call on our life. 
 
JWK: CHERI LOMONTE HOSTED THE SHOW FOR TEN YEARS. DO YOU SEE YOURSELF DOING IT FOR THAT LONG?
AW: I never saw myself in Hollywood! I never saw myself hosting a national radio show! So I think the key is to take it one day at a time and be open to God’s plans for how he wants to use any one of us. Two years ago I was in Boston and in the suddenness of God, I am catapulted back into the film industry by day and have this new arm of evangelization through radio that God is opening up. In my life I have just learned when it comes to His plan, you keep moving as he prompts one day at a time! It’s all for Him and there is no time table with Him.
JWK: WHAT DO YOU SAY TO PEOPLE WHO VIEW THE CATHOLIC VIEW OF MARY AS TAKING AWAY FROM THE ATTENTION THAT SHOULD BE PLACED ON JESUS?

AW:I would say this: God so loved the world that He gave His only Son and God condescended to the earth and became manifest as a baby using Mary as the instrument of this Salvation history! God uses Mary as a vehicle of transport. He could have come in power or majesty but he comes as a small baby, as the least and most dependent. He passes through woman, and not just any woman. Mary is highly favored and conceived without sin. It’s just so symbolic of how God invites us now to let our very selves also pass through Mary’s Immaculate Heart. Mary leads us always to Jesus. As she held Jesus in her arms. She holds us in her arms. She was united to him in His coming and united to Him in His dying on the Cross. She helps us to understand the mystery of His incarnation and what it means for our life. . our suffering, how to live and grow in holiness, in saying yes to the things God is asking of us – she is our example in all of our life’s journey.  
 
JWK: WITH YOU PR BACKGROUND, DO YOU SOMETIMES ALMOST FEEL LIKE MARY’S PUBLICIST?
As a former journalist and as a PR pro, storytelling is really at the heart of all of this work. The story of our lives as mingled with Christ and heaven –  the adversity, the overcoming, the miracles, the losses, the restoration, the redemption – all the drama that is the tension of living a life for Christ in a modern society become some of the greatest stories that the world could ever know! These stories of faith and witness are like new “acts” of the apostles and can become the impetus for others to encounter Jesus through Mary. These stories must be told. And like any good PR gal… if you have one, please let me know!

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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