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Rev. Nicholas Blaha (’02)
Rev. Nicholas Blaha (’02)
Photo: Kathryn White/The Leaven 

The pandemic saw an explosion of new podcasts, but few as wholesome as Story Hour, the work of alumnus priest Rev. Nicholas Blaha (’02). Throughout the series, Fr. Blaha reads from beloved children’s books, captivating the imaginations of the students at Christ the King, his parish school in Kansas City, Kansas. This creative challenge to lockdown isolation recently caught the attention of his archdiocesan newspaper, The Leaven.

Christ the King has long contemplated embracing a classical educational model, which, Fr. Blaha, notes, emphasizes “imagery, story, poetry, beauty” over quantity and calculation — commonly emphasized in other educational models. “Great stories … put us in touch with these universal truths that apply regardless of what time or place we’re living in,” he says.

The school had planned to transition to the classical model by the fall of 2020, but the coronavirus had other plans. When restrictions locked the school indefinitely, Fr. Blaha wondered how to perpetuate the school’s mission in the dawning age of Zoom — and that’s when inspiration struck.

“How can we be saying, ‘Get outside and read,’ … while also asking you to be on your devices looking at content, or doing homework or different things like that?” he said in a video announcing his podcast. “So, the thought crossed my mind: Why not read a book together?” Thus “Story Hour” was born. The first book was Padraic Colum’s The Children’s Homer, which the priest read over the course of many bite-sized podcast episodes.

Needless to say, Fr. Blaha’s parishioners were delighted. According to The Leaven, families would listen to episodes while driving or taking walks, enjoying every minute. One child remarked, “I love how he makes the characters’ different voices. It’s funny and makes the story really real.” A grateful parent added that his reading is “patient, and he allows the text to speak for itself, which is hard to do, I think.”

His parishioners’ delight rebounded on Fr. Blaha. “There’s so much disillusionment [out there],” he told The Leaven. “These stories have had a beautiful way of re-enchanting my life and giving me joy and hope again.” Thus, even though Christ the King School has at last reopened, the podcast continues, bringing joy to pastor and flock alike.

His two years of reading great stories found an echo at Thomas Aquinas College ‘s 2022 California Commencement, where he served as the principal celebrant at the Baccalaureate Mass. “Heroic people need heroes,” he told the new graduates in his homily. “Heroes beget heroes. So, search them out.”

While the graduates begin that search for their heroes, the students at Christ the King are the recipients of distinct blessing: The heroes are searching them out, through the many voices of a dedicated pastor.