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Catholic Vancouver April 16, 2019

Podcast’s success astounds shy-at-heart mom

By Agnieszka Ruck

Heather Khym (right) and friends Michelle Benzinger and Sister Miriam Heidland, SOLT, created Abiding Together, a weekly podcast reaching 2 million downloads in just two years. (Photo by Madi Meyers-Cook)

Abbotsford mom Heather Khym had no idea the podcast she started with two best friends in 2017 would become so popular.

Abiding Together – hosted by Khym, missionary Michelle Benzinger, and Sister Miriam James Heidland – has been downloaded nearly two million times in just two years. It has several thousand followers on social media and is downloaded across the globe 60,000 times per week.

“It has just exploded,” Khym told The B.C. Catholic.

Most Abiding Together listeners tune in from Canada and the U.S., but the podcast also has a large following in Australia and dedicated listeners in some surprising parts of the world: Africa, China, Cambodia, and Kuwait.

“We’re creating a sense of community and I think people are desperate for that,” said Khym.

A podcast can “break through isolation” and meet listeners where they are, whether they are nursing moms, overworked professionals, or retired, Khym said.

Abiding Together (hosted by Ascension Press) aims to create a hopeful space where Catholic women of any age can be encouraged in faith and build meaningful relationships. Listeners can connect to the Abiding Together online community and get together with small groups of friends to discuss questions that arrive with each new episode.

“People are really hungry,” for connection. Khym knows. She’s been there.

“There was a long season in my life where I was very serious about my relationship with God and my faith, but I didn’t have people around me who I could connect to on a regular basis,” she said. “It was incredibly lonely.”

Then, she discovered a podcast that was spiritually encouraging and convenient to listen to amid her busy schedule. She mentioned it to a friend, who suggested Khym start her own. “I was really shy and said: ‘I don’t think I can do that.’” 

But something about the idea tugged at her heart, and she, Benzinger, and Sister Heidland launched the podcast in February of 2017.

Though these busy women work and live in different cities across North America, they release one episode per week, addressing marriage, forgiveness, popular female saints, and other topics. Around Lent they completed a series on Jacques Philippe’s Searching for and Maintaining Peace.

 “If we open our hearts and give our small 'yes,' we never know what God can do.”  
Heather Khym

The two million downloads aren’t the only indicator that today’s Catholics crave connection. Khym and her husband, Jake, co-founded Life Restoration in 2004, and in recent years, that ministry’s efforts have also enjoyed notable popularity.

Khym hosts an annual women’s retreat or conference in B.C. that in its four years has consistently sold out all tickets far in advance. All 500 tickets for the 2019 event (coming to Surrey this May) were spoken for within two weeks of going on sale.

She estimates that in three years of conferences, about 1,200 women have been directly touched by her ministry.

Jake also hosts men’s conferences through Life Restoration. They are smaller events, reaching about 650 men in the last three years, but they also sell out every year. The fourth annual men’s conference will be held Sept. 20-22.

“We live in an isolated society,” said Khym. “We’re trying to give engaging and challenging content so that people can really grow in their faith.”

Retreats provide “opportunities for them to connect, but also to go much deeper.”

She is thrilled with the response to Abiding Together and hopeful it will continue to reach the multitudes she never could have imagined it would reach.

“If we open our hearts and give our small ‘yes,’ we never know what God can do.”