UD alumni tell stories of virtue in “That’s The Word” podcast

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Photo courtesy of the Sons of Thunder Rock

Two University of Dallas alumni are finding new ways to evangelize and engage in the art of storytelling through their new weekly podcast, That’s the Word.

The Rev. Fr. James Yamauchi, JCL, BA ’07, the Associate Director of Formation at Holy Trinity Seminary, is the host of the show. His brother, John Peter Yamauchi, BS ’17, MS ’18, helps write the stories and produces the podcast. Together, the brothers form the Sons of Thunder Rock production team.

They started releasing episodes for the That’s the Word podcast every Wednesday in November 2020. Each episode is a brief, mysterious retelling of a true story which allows the listener to discover and enjoy the twists and details which Fr. James Yamauchi narrates.

Last March, Fr. James and John Peter Yamauchi  produced a Facebook Live Show called “Father at 5” for their parish. The success of their daily half-hour show inspired them to continue seeking to evangelize in a way that is accessible for as many people as possible.

Fr. James Yamauchi said that John Peter and he started the Advent project as a way to tell the true stories of models of virtue. He views the art of storytelling as essential to evangelization, thinking of Jesus’ own use of parables and the disciples’ spreading Christianity through word-of-mouth.

The Catholic Church started, Fr. James Yamauchi said, when the disciples evangelized “by telling the stories of what Jesus said and did.”

“By focusing on stories that are true and wholesome, and Christ is at the source of all natural and supernatural order, this could be a way of opening the door and letting people know something that is good and virtuous,” Fr. James Yamauchi said.

The content of the stories (without spoiling any endings) vary in subject, but often focus on historical figures, saints or events that are little known or are rarely recognized for their example of virtue.

Along with producing the podcast, John Peter Yamauchi assists Fr. James Yamauchi in researching and writing the true account of these stories. His favorite episode so far is “The Desperation of the Downes Family.”

“That one was the second one we did,” John Peter Yamauchi said. He particularly enjoyed it “just because the way that one came together, the vivid details, and there is almost a twist within the twist at the end.” 

Even stories which seem familiar to Catholic listeners can enhance their understanding of what the person was actually like by hearing it presented in a unique way.

Fr. James Yamauchi’s favorite episodes are “A Novel of Thanksgiving” and “The Trustworthy Imposter.”

The That’s the Word podcast currently has a dozen episodes, with each episode being around five minutes long.

Fr. James Yamauchi said they desired to tell stories that are “easily receptive,” so making the stories short and available on multiple platforms was important to increase accessibility.

Their story format is similar to other podcasts which retell people’s lives in a strange way, according to John Peter Yamauchi, such as The Way I Heard It with Mike Rowe. Fr. James Yamauchi was inspired to start this podcast based on the 1970s radio broadcast The Rest of the Story from Paul Harvey and his son, which often had a hidden twist at the end.

In each episode of That’s the Word, “the listener is an active participant in the story,” Fr James Yamauchi explained. The listener is encouraged to gather the hints before the reveal at the end.

“Just hearing stories from the Catholic worldview shapes the way you think about things,” John Peter Yamauchi said. Even on a secular platform, John Peter Yamauchi hopes the story can positively influence how a listener sees the world.

That’s the Word is available on the Apple Podcasts app, Spotify and their official website. The podcast also has social media platforms on Facebook and Instagram.  An episode is released every Wednesday.

The podcast satisfies the desire for stories common to all civilizations, Fr. James Yamauchi said. He quoted the tagline with an earnest smile, saying “Everyone loves a good story.”

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