Local Religious life

Priest makes stories ‘come alive’

Father Nick Blaha, pastor of Christ the King and Blessed Sacrament parishes in Kansas City, Kansas, reads “Pinocchio” for his podcast called “Story Hour,” which launched in the spring of 2020. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

by Moira Cullings

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Two years ago, Father Nick Blaha jumped into the art of storytelling — much to the delight of his online listeners.

The pastor of Christ the King and Blessed Sacrament parishes in Kansas City, Kansas, launched a podcast called “Story Hour” in the spring of 2020 to connect with Christ the King School students and encourage family reading.

“I created it specifically for our families,” said Father Blaha, “but I don’t put anything in there that wouldn’t appeal to anyone that’s interested in good stories.

“We’re a classical school trying to connect with great stories.”

Father Nick Blaha reads “Pinocchio” for his podcast called “Story Hour,” which has garnered an audience within his parishes and beyond. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

Father Blaha reads classic children’s stories, sharing the adventure, character development and lessons through his voice.

So far, he’s read “The Children’s Homer” by Padraic Colum and is currently reading “Pinocchio” by Carlo Collodi.

“I was imagining something like a 1950s family in the living room around the radio,” said Father Blaha.

But he soon had to reassess.

“Most of the people who listen to it are probably driving,” he said. “The way we listen now is very different.”

When Father Nick Blaha launched his podcast, he envisioned a 1950s family gathered around the radio. Although times are different now, he believes reading stories through a podcast can bring families together. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

Dawn Grabs, who has three children at Christ the King, said the podcast has made Pinocchio “really come alive.”

Her children — John, seventh grade; Emmanuel, fifth grade; and Frances, first grade — look forward to listening to their pastor on their drive to school.

“I love how he makes the characters’ different voices,” said Emmanuel. “It’s funny and makes the story really real.”

Frances enjoys the music between chapters, and John expressed how Father Blaha is “really excited and engaging.”

Father Nick Blaha’s audience enjoys his podcast for a variety of reasons — from entertainment to family time. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

Sebastian D’Amico and his family are also fans of the “Story Hour” podcast. They’ve listened to Father Blaha’s recording of “The Children’s Homer” at least four times.

“I remember being taught one of the greatest parts about reading is that you can reread the stories you love,” said D’Amico. “I taught my kids that early on.”

Although his children do not attend Christ the King, he heard about the podcast through his work at Holy Family School of Faith.

D’Amico’s children — Santiago, 11; Gabriel, 8; Bella, 6; Lorenzo, 3; and Sofia, 1 — were fascinated by “The Children’s Homer.”

Gabriel said listening to the podcast was “addicting in a good way.”

“There’s a lot of wonder, adventure and excitement,” he said. “It’s actually easier to understand when someone reads these stories to you than when you try to read it by yourself.”

Listeners of “Story Hour” are often grade school children and their parents, who seem to enjoy the podcast as much as their kids. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

Santiago described Father Blaha as a “solemn and enthusiastic” reader.

Their father said the priest is “patient, and he allows the text to speak for itself, which is hard to do, I think.”

“Story Hour” is important for children whose parents aren’t able to read them stories at home, D’Amico added, and he hopes the podcast will help his own children learn “how to listen and talk about a good story,” which he believes can teach them the tools to pray with Scripture.

Enchanting his audience

Recording a podcast has made Father Blaha appreciate the creative process of interpreting characters and manipulating his voice to fit a story.

“To read well means to put yourself creatively into these stories and then to make them come alive in a very artistic and creative way,” he said.

Father Blaha explained how the podcast fits in with Christ the King School, which recently switched to a classical education model.

That model “emphasizes imagery, story, poetry, beauty,” he explained.

The podcast is a way to tell “great stories that put us in touch with these universal truths that apply regardless of what time or place we’re living in,” he said.

Father Nick Blaha hopes to enchant his audience and give them a sense of wonder through classic children’s stories. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

The podcast is one of several ways Christ the King is bringing its community together.

Father Blaha also created “School of Home,” an initiative to gather families after Sunday Mass every other week. The program includes breakfast, socializing and formation.

For parishioners Gerry and Michelle Garcia, participating in something like “School of Home” has been a blessing.

“The program was fun, relaxing and educational,” said Gerry. “‘School of Home’ gave us a chance to share our ideas and listen to others. It was a great way to kick off our Sundays right before a Chiefs game.”

Father Blaha has connected his parishioners in creative and formative ways.

Now, he looks forward to creating more “Story Hour” episodes for his listeners and hopes it “re-enchants people’s hearts and minds.”

“There’s so much disillusionment [out there],” he said. “These stories have had a beautiful way of re-enchanting my life and giving me joy and hope again.

“And I hope that’s something that others would be able to have, too.”

 “Story Hour” can be found on all major podcast platforms. It is also available online at: anchor.fm/ctk-story-hour.

About the author

Moira Cullings

Moira attended St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park and Benedictine College in Atchison. She majored in marketing, minored in psychology and played center midfield for the women’s soccer team. Moira joined The Leaven staff as a feature writer and social media editor in 2015. After a move to Denver, Moira resumed her full-time position at The Leaven and continues to write and manage its website, social media channels. Her favorite assignment was traveling to the Holy Land to take photos for a group pilgrimage in 2019.

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