In five years, Fr. Ricardo Martín (left) and Fr. Philip Bogacki recorded 257 episodes of “Two Guys and a Gospel.” (File photo)
After five years and 257 episodes, “Two Guys and a Gospel” is coming to a close.
The popular podcast, whose weekly installments featured Fr. Ricardo Martín and Fr. Philip Bogacki’s off-the-cuff reflections on the upcoming Sunday’s readings, aired its last episode earlier this month.
In its years, the show averaged about 1,000 listeners per week and reached a quarter of a million listens total. It spawned many loyal listeners, some of whom formed groups because of the show.
Both priests said that the decision to end the podcast resulted from a combination of busy schedules and a sense of having developed the idea to its full potential.
“For me, it was all a matter of saying: we had this idea, we developed it, it worked … now, like everything, it is time to bring it to a close,” said Fr. Martín.
Fr. Bogacki called it a “hard decision” to stop production of new episodes.
“First, the pandemic is making life as a pastor exponentially more complicated, and we needed to look for energy realignment in our roles as pastors,” Fr. Bogacki said. “Secondly, there is an explosion of podcasts out there. While I am 100 percent confident this was a unique and excellent product, the environment prevented the significant growth I feel it deserved.”
“I think for both of us, it was important to close this chapter of our lives while we were still ahead, while we had people following,” said Fr. Martín. “I also liked what Fr. Phillip said in our last episode: for new projects to begin, other things have to end.”
“I wanted to end while we were ahead,” said Fr. Bogacki. “Jerry Seinfeld was intentional about ending his show while it was on top. As a Jerry fan, that was always in my mind as I knew someday we’d have to come to this decision.”
It was in 2016 when Fr. Martín first approached Fr. Bogacki with the idea for a podcast that would feature two priests discussing the upcoming Sunday Gospel text in a casual, conversational format — just two guys and a Gospel.
Initially, Fr. Bogacki was reluctant to take on such a project.
“I felt uncomfortable with a public role like that, and I suggested other priests for him to approach,” he said. But he eventually agreed to give it a try, and Fr. Martín pitched the podcast to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Communication Office. The idea immediately “fit” with the office’s vision to offer programming that would help people prepare for the upcoming Sunday Gospel, said Heidi Heistad, communication coordinator for the archdiocese.
“We wanted to produce something that was casual and fun, yet inspiring – open people’s minds to the rich layers and meaning of the Gospel – to make it understandable and relevant to their everyday lives,” said Heistad.
“I now realize (Fr. Martín) had a knack for understanding the chemistry of personalities to make this work,” said Fr. Bogacki. “We would not have been as successful except for that insight into two different characters talking about the Gospel.”
It was Heistad who produced each of the podcast’s episodes, which were recorded at the Mary Mother of the Church Pastoral Center’s FTS Recording Studios. The unscripted format was not only fun for listeners, it provided the priests with an opportunity to brainstorm their upcoming Sunday homilies.
“I loved the approach of allowing people to see the initial thoughts one might have about the readings — honestly sitting over a cup of coffee to take a first look,” said Fr. Bogacki. “That is unique in the world of scripture podcasts, as far as I know.”
“While I would not take back much of what I ever said on an episode, the homily usually ended up being different,” said Fr. Martín. “It was part of the process to end up somewhere else.”
“We wanted to create an environment where people (anyone Catholic or not) could get a sense of what priests think about when they put a homily together. What do they consider? What do they want to convey? What’s important to understand in the words on the page?” said Heistad.
But preparation was only part of the format — the evangelization that resulted from the priests’ banter was also crucial to its success, said Heistad. “It went beyond preparing people for Sunday Mass, but prepared them to go out and live the Gospel, discover the Beatitudes, and encouraged people to have a deeper relationship with God.”
The entire 257-volume archive is still available on archmil.org/TwoGuys for listeners to enjoy. While the trio will miss working on the podcast, there is a “deep sense of peace” about its conclusion, said Fr. Martín, who also noted that the team never received “one single email” complaining about its content in the entire five-year run.
“I think it is interesting to realize the podcast did not produce controversy when everything seems polarizing and controversial in Church and society these days,” Fr. Martín said. “The last five years, the life of the podcast, have been very difficult times — but I believe the podcast was able to navigate the times, and perhaps help some to find some balance and meaning. That is one of the many gifts of Scripture.”