S2 | EP 8:
In this episode, breakdancer Nimoy Vaidya and marathon swimmer Br. Matt Wooters, SJ, meet for the first time. We walk with them from a Chicago coffee shop, and then down to the lake front, as they discuss their passions — and dive into how they started getting out of their comfort zones.
S2 | EP 7:
In this episode, Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, the former captain of Notre Dame’s football team and an NFL hopeful, shares his journey through grief to find hope in his faith and caring for his mental health.
Grotto producers Josh Long and Kevin DeCloedt talk about what it was like filming Myron’s story, and introduce a conversation Myron had with ND strength coach Matt Balis. Then we hang out with Myron and his roommate (and fellow ND teammate) Michael Vinson as they discuss grief, the pressures of college, caring for mental health, and finding faith as a glue to hold it all together.
S2 | EP 6:
We’re deep into our storytelling edition where we wonder what else is out there, and this episode of Good and Decent explores everything from the mythical to the supernatural.
Video producers Josh Long and Tara Kelly were curious about local cryptids — mythical creatures like Chicago’s Mothman — and so they set out to learn what they can. When Josh travels south on vacation, he begins to feel like he can’t get away from these mysterious creatures.
Our editor, Josh Noem, brings in a respectable authority — Father Aaron Michka, CSC — who is both a priest and an anthropologist. Together, they discuss paranormal phenomena and UFO sightings, beginning with Father Aaron’s own encounter with “beings of light” that visited him for a time in his youth. Video producer Kevin DeCloedt chimes in with his own personal encounter with the supernatural.
S2 | EP 5:
In this episode, Good and Decent is going to the margins – to two very different places and moments in history – to find the power in embracing the most neglected in our society.
Grotto host Javi Zubizarreta speaks with reporter and author Michael O’Loughlin about the history of the AIDS crisis and the Catholic Church. Michael is the host of the podcast Plague: Untold Stories of AIDS and the Catholic Church and the author of Hidden Mercy: AIDS, Catholics, and the Untold Stories of Compassion in the Face of Fear. A gay Catholic himself, O’Loughlin’s powerful work brings together unimaginable stories of empathy, heartbreak, and grace from the LGBT+ community and the Church. He and Javi discuss the power of these stories, their impact on Michael’s own life, and how even Pope Francis himself reached out to recognize the work.
From the north side of Chicago and Michael’s apartment, Grotto then goes to downtown Cincinnati to meet Gary Short of the homeless outreach organization, Foot Care for the Souls. Every day, Gary takes the feet of countless unhoused people into his lap and makes sure they are clean, healthy, and loved. It’s a powerful witness of caring for the most marginalized, without fear or scorn.
Click here to view this episode and watch the mini-documentary on Gary Short.
S2 | EP 4:
In this episode, Grotto hosts Becky Rogers and Liz Colleran speak with Jacob Zumo, an artist from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Becky is Grotto’s art director and Liz is our assignment desk manager, so they’re pretty hands-on in our creative process — the conversation they share with Jacob digs into storytelling with art. Jacob says he wants to paint images that are arrestingly beautiful, and that cause people to wonder, “What’s the story behind that?”
Jacob is a bridge-builder as an artist — he’s classically trained, but also does paintings for rappers and athletes. He talks about “pushing the sacred” whenever he can — he honed his craft in Florence, Italy but brings a modern take to sacred art so that people feel connected to his paintings, especially people from underrepresented communities.
Click here to view this episode and watch the mini-documentary on Jacob Zumo.
S2 | EP 3:
How do we set out to find a new start? Often, when we think of new beginnings, we imagine a new habit or goal that we want to establish. So we pick an objective and start incorporating it into our days. But what about those moments when the new start you need is deeper and bigger than just a new workout routine? Like, when you need to change the direction of your life?
Producers Josh Long and Sara Thoms connect with two people who have dramatically changed the course of their lives: when his marriage fell apart, Ian Shankster set out to cross the country driving trucks and capturing beauty with photography along the way; and Jesse Woodworth left a vibrant life in Denver to take over a family farm in Indiana.
Click here to view this episode and watch the mini-documentaries on Jesse Woodworth and Ian Shankster.
S2 | EP 2:
In this episode, Adrienne and Sara speak with Daniel Baker, a neighborhood carpenter who creates home furnishings without the use of any power tools. The craftsmanship he invests in his pieces connects him to his community in a deep way — he wants to be present to his neighbors “from crib to coffin.”
They also speak with Alan Graham, who founded a 27-acre community of tiny houses and homes designed to lift up off the streets the most “outcast, lost, and abandoned people” in Austin, TX: the chronically homeless.
Click here to view this episode, read other articles on finding home, and watch the mini-documentaries on Daniel Baker and Alan Graham.
S2 | EP 1:
In this episode, host Sara Thoms is joined by guest filmmaker Kevin DeCloedt to explore the kind of gratitude that pulls us through tough times. They dig into the stories of two extraordinary people who are responding to debilitating disease with resilience and hopefulness: Trey Gray and Gillian Mocek.
Click here to view this episode, read other articles on gratitude, and watch the mini-documentaries on Trey Grey and Gillian Mocek.
S1 | EP 1:
In this first episode of Grotto’s new podcast, Good and Decent, we search for wonder in the world. Our hosts, Javi and Sara, discuss how awe can be an antidote to the mundane. Their conversation draws upon encounters with Harvard cosmologist, Mila Chadayammuri, and a priest on safari, Father Pat Reidy, CSC.
“In heightened moments of wonder and awe, you have this sense that creation is alive,” Sara says. “This is the universe alive and speaking to us, if we have the stillness and solitude to receive it.”
Click here to view this episode, read other articles on wonder and awe, and watch the mini-documentaries on Mila and Father Pat.
S1 | EP 2:
Have you ever met certain people and thought, “Geesh… what’s in their coffee? And how can I get some of what they have?” This week on Good and Decent, Sara and Javi muse on people who exude generosity in their daily lives, and what we can learn from them. Two such people are Charles “Bike Man” Jenkins, who fixes bikes for kids in his local community; and Annie, a barista at the Local Cup — a cafe that runs on the generosity of others.
Click here to view this episode, read other articles on generosity, and watch the mini-documentaries on Charles “Bike Man” Jenkins and Annie.
S1 | EP 3:
Have you ever changed your mind about something? This week’s episode of Good and Decent digs into two intriguing stories about experiencing a radical change of heart: tattoo artists who help people cover up racist tattoos, and a man who decided to “live off the grid.”
Randy Orak chose to sell his car and ride a modified bike everywhere. This decision wasn’t simply about living eco-friendly or enjoying biking to work — for Randy, it was something that felt in sync with his soul. Leaving his tech job propelled him into the world of gardening and agriculture.
Ben and Sara discuss how radical changes of heart can come all at once, or little by little. This episode of Good and Decent begs the question: are you feeling drawn to have a change of heart? If so, how? If not now, when?
Click here to view this episode, read other articles on change of heart, and watch the mini-documentaries on Randy and the tattoo artists.
S1 | EP 4:
This week on Good and Decent, producer Josh Long and Sara Thoms explore the theme of empathy, and there’s been no one who has told more stories for Grotto on that topic than filmmaker and producer Michael Burke. Josh and Sara decide to give him a call, and he shares a bit about his personal motivations to do social justice work through filmmaking.
He also speaks about the process of documentary filmmaking — the spontaneity and unpredictability of it. For Michael, the lack of empathy found in public policy and the infrastructure at the border inspired a passion in him to tell stories in that space. Josh and Michael discuss the ways their perspective shifted after documenting and witnessing the pilgrims and their work at the border, as well as the bravery of the migrants.
Click here to view this episode, read other articles on empathy, and watch the mini-documentaries on the El Paso Pilgrimage and saving migrants in the Arizona Desert.
S1 | EP 5:
“Friendship is a problem,” host and producer Josh Long says in this week’s episode of Good and Decent. Lately, Josh has been feeling like his friendships have suffered — and he’s not alone. Almost one third of young adults feel that they have no best friends. What keeps two people bonded together over the course of a life? Josh and co-host Sara Thoms turn to three Grotto stories for inspiration on the topic of friendship.
In the first, a video gamer, known as Bearded Blevins, with a large following shares his experience of friendship transcending the boundaries of space and time through his Twitch platform.
The second story is of Pilar Amado, a woman of color who started rock climbing with a desire to find community.
Josh introduces one more (bonus!) Grotto story about inter-generational friendship — a story of three wild turkey hunters in central Michigan.
In this episode, Josh and Sara invite us to take a deep dive into our own friendships: How are your friendships? What do your friends need from you, and you from them, in this season of life?
Click here to view this episode, read other articles on friendship, and watch the mini-documentaries on Bearded Blevins, Pilar Amado, and the three wild turkey hunters.
S1 | EP 6:
In the season 1 finale of Good and Decent, Javi pitches an idea to Josh and Sara: A group of air guitarists in Boston have something in common with a cloistered monk in Kentucky. Confused but intrigued by this contrasting pair, the three hit the road for their first post-pandemic road trip…and their first time working together as a trio in person! They set out to discover what it is that connects these seemingly disparate people.
Along the way, they discuss the meaning of life — is it always and only about what we produce in the world? Our work is important, surely, but isn’t there something more to life? Both our air guitar friends and Brother Paul Quenon seem to have a deep-down joy that doesn’t come from work.
When something is truly use-less, having no apparent “use,” it is done for the sake of itself. Br. Paul describes that there’s a freedom in that. Both playing air guitar and praying as a monk develop a kind of interior life. What in your life is use-less? Is there anything you do for the joy of it and nothing else? Can we truly find deeper meaning in simply being and not doing?
Click here to view this episode, read other articles on joy and simply being, and watch the mini-documentaries on the air guitarists and Brother Paul Quenon, O.C.S.O.