Terry Barber, 56, grew up in the Los Angeles
area, and enjoyed a successful career in real estate. In fact, by age 25,
he’d acquired enough property to comfortably retire. So, he decided he’d
focus on a new career: working with other Catholic apologists to win souls for
He founded a variety of Catholic evangelization
apostolates, including St. Joseph Communications
and the Catholic Resource
Center, and serves as Chairman of the Board of Lighthouse Media. He
is also the co-host of The Jesse &
Terry Show, a Catholic apologetics radio program he does with Jesse Romero and
which airs on 300 radio stations nationwide.
Barber's “one and only” book on Catholic
to Share Your Faith with Anyone: A Practical Manual of Catholic Evangelization, has just been published by Ignatius Press.
Drawing heavily on personal stories from his lifetime of Catholic evangelism,
Barber offers tips to the average layman on how he might help win souls for
Barber recently spoke with CWR.
CWR: What prompted you to write this book?
(Laughing) Father Joseph
Fessio [founder and editor of Ignatius Press] and his staff twisted my arm
until I agreed to write it. They loved hearing my stories of evangelizing
people I meet in everyday life, in the grocery store and on the soccer field.
I’m not a theologian or philosopher; I’m an ordinary man trying to be a
good husband and father and provide for my family. I share stories of
living and sharing my Catholic faith in that context.
One story, for example, involves a woman who
came up to speak to me at a Catholic conference. I was there selling our
Catholic books and CDs. She asked if I remembered her, and I admitted I
didn’t. She said that 28 years before, I had taught her in a CCD class at
St. Christopher Parish in West Covina. She had gotten pregnant
out-of-wedlock, and had stopped going to the class because she was embarrassed.
She remembered I had said, “If you have a problem, come before Jesus in the
Blessed Sacrament and ask his help.”
So, she went to church. Coincidentally,
she saw me going in to make a Holy Hour. Without my even realizing it,
she watched me pray. Her boyfriend, the father of her child, wanted her
to have an abortion. Sitting there with me in that church, she realized
she couldn’t do it. She had her baby.
Twenty-eight years later, at that conference,
she said, “Let me introduce you to my daughter.” She brought over a young
woman of about 27, and she said, “Elizabeth, this is the man who helped me make
the decision to keep you.” Her daughter then gave me a big hug
The moral of this story is that people are watching
you, even when you don’t know it.
Another story I share is of my late father, when
he was in the intensive care unit of the hospital. I was allowed five
minutes every hour to go in and see him. A nurse told me I could go in.
I went in, held his hand and spoke to him about the value of redemptive
suffering. I asked him to squeeze my hand if he could understand me.
I left, only to discover that I had been in the
wrong room. The man was pale white and covered with a sheet, and I
mistook him for my own father. He apparently benefitted from my words,
nonetheless. It demonstrates that God will use you, if you give yourself
CWR: One of the questions you discuss in your
book is, “Why don’t Catholics evangelize?” What is your answer?
One reason is because they
don’t know their faith. It’s not difficult to get up in front of a room
full of people and talk about a subject you know well, but anyone would feel
uncomfortable speaking on a topic they didn’t know anything about. You
can’t evangelize if you’re not catechized.
CWR: What are some of the greatest rewards
you’ve enjoyed in your 35 years at the helm of St. Joseph Communications?
I’m most gratified by the
people who’ve told me that I’ve helped them discover the meaning and purpose of
life. That excites me. St. Augustine said, “To fall in love with
God is the greatest romance, to seek him the greatest adventure, to find him,
the greatest human achievement.” That’s what I’ve found most enjoyable
about working with people, helping them to fall in love with God.
In fact, my focus has always been on Catholics,
and reaching out to Catholics and getting them excited about their faith.
I figure when we do that, they’ll reach out to non-Catholics.
Unfortunately, so many Catholics live life like God doesn’t exist.
CWR: You say that selling real estate has helped
you to be a better evangelist. Can you explain?
I was trained in the “seven
basic laws of selling” by sales guru Al Tomsik. I use these basic laws,
and they work. In sharing the faith with someone, for example, you have
to keep their attention, which you can do by frequently saying their name.
As it says in the book, I was a successful real estate salesman on planet
Earth, and now I’m applying the same principles to sell real estate in heaven.
CWR: What are some of the tips you share in your
First off, people don’t
care how much you know, until they know how much you care. One of my
favorite evangelists is Scott Hahn. He did the forward for the book.
He taught me how to befriend people before you share the Faith. You
have to establish a rapport. Scott has the ability to talk to someone on
the opposing side of an issue, make the counter argument, but keep it a friendly
Also important is living in the presence of God.
When we live in his presence, everything we do is with him. How
many people would commit a sin, if they realized that God and their guardian
angel were watching? Constantly recalling the presence of God in your
life is the secret to sanctity and effective evangelization.
It’s also important to follow a spiritual game
plan each day. It is essential to living out your faith. We have to
evaluate each day if we’ve followed our game plan and see how we can do better.
An unexamined life is not worth living.
CWR: I know Bishop Fulton Sheen is also one of
your favorite evangelists. Yet a priest you met once told you his
preaching was “antiquated.” How did you respond?
Yes, it happened when I was
attending a Religious Education Congress for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
I was only 20 years old at the time, and I was respectful and didn’t
argue with him. Yet I thought to myself, I’m going to prove this priest
is wrong. I began copying and distributing Bishop Sheen audiotapes
through St. Joseph Communications in 1978.
That priest may have thought Bishop Sheen was
“antiquated,” but millions of people who have benefitted from his wisdom would
disagree. In fact, many people have told me personally that he is the
greatest communicator of the 20th century. His shows are still being
aired on the radio, and his books are still being reprinted. We’ve also
recently seen him declared Venerable.
CWR: You grew up going to public schools in the 60s and 70s, when many of
your peers got involved in what your book terms the “sex, drugs, and rock n’
roll culture.” You found the authentic Catholic life more appealing.
Can you expand on this?
I had good parents and an
intact family. I knew they loved me. They also gave me a good
formation in the Catholic faith, and showed me the craziness in the world.
I knew I didn’t want to offend God or my parents, so I stayed out of
trouble. By the eighth grade I had fallen in love with God, and I’ve gone
to Mass daily ever since.
CWR: You’re also a committed pro-lifer, and
have prayed the Rosary many times in front of abortion clinics. Your book
even mentions how a pro-abortion demonstrator smashed a lit cigarette in your
ear one time when you were doing this.
Yes, that was awful.
I’ve been given the grace never to compromise,
even when things get tough. In 1988, I participated in Operation Rescue
and was arrested. When the police took me into custody, I was with
[former abortionist turned pro-lifer] Bernard Nathanson. I was thrown
into battle, and was committed to the cause. We took a stand for babies.
CWR: You’ve been an evangelist at a time when
many in prominent positions in the Church have dissented against authentic
Catholic teaching and scandals in the priesthood were exposed. What
response do you give those who bring up these problems?
(Laughing) I tell them I’m
in sales, not management.
It’s difficult to deal with, but I try to offer
a firm but loving response. I recall going to a talk given by a Catholic
bishop some decades ago. He told us that the Church would change her
teaching on contraception and that we’d see women priests by 2000. I
asked him, “If Pope John Paul II were here, would you say that to us?” He
admitted he wouldn’t.
I had recorded his remarks, and through a
priest-friend I was able to forward the tape to then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
in Rome. The dissenting bishop later called me personally to apologize
and to say he accepted the authority of the Magisterium. Now had I been
nasty and publicly denounced him as a heretic, it wouldn’t have gone over too
CWR: We’re blessed to live in a country where we
are free to share the Faith. If you established your apostolate in an Islamic
country, you might find yourself put into prison or executed. In Europe
or Canada, if you defended Catholic teaching on marriage and family, you could
find yourself in trouble with the state. Do you have any concerns about
losing your freedom to evangelize in the United States?
Yes, big time. On the
radio program I do with Jesse Romero, we talk about Islam, contraception,
marriage, and family life, and more. I predict that it won’t be long
before what we say is deemed a hate crime, and many of us will go to jail.
I’ve talked to my wife about this. I’m willing to go to jail, if
that’s the price of sharing the truth.
CWR: Bishop Alexander Sample was recently named
to head the Archdiocese of Portland. Salvatore Cordileone is archbishop
of San Francisco. Robert Vasa is bishop of Santa Rosa. Archbishop
Jose Gomez now heads your Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Are you encouraged
by the quality of bishops coming to the West Coast?
Yes. It’s been a huge change in
leadership, and I’m excited about it. Good things have come to
California, and I think it will spread east. California is key, as 13
million of the country’s 65 million Catholics live here. I think we’re
entering a new era of orthodoxy, with bishops not being politically correct,
but speaking the truth in charity.