by Karen Mahoney

When Joseph Scordato’s children needed a bedtime story, he didn’t grab a story off the nursery bookshelves. Rather, he wrote them himself, hoping the message would sink in long before they were able to read.

The father of seven always enjoyed writing and also penned stories for his Franciscan fraternity. He and his wife of 25 years, Maureen, are Secular Franciscans.

“The stories are all religious allegories, typically about one of the Sacraments, intended to help my children see our living faith from unique and engaging perspectives,” he said.

“All of my children are musical, compose their own music, and perform at local festivals, coffee houses, weddings and other events in the Milwaukee area and in northern Illinois. My eldest daughters formed a harp and flute duet known as Emerald Wind. Along with Maureen, they are an annual mainstay at the Milwaukee Irish Fest and have produced several albums. Some of their music has been inspired by my stories and, likewise, some of my stories have been inspired by their music. It’s a great creative exchange of inspiration.”

Last year, Scordato attended the Catholic Writers Guild Conference and prayed for discernment on where to take his writing. Along the way, he got the idea that creating a podcast might be the ideal way to incorporate his stories while including his entire family.

“I missed serving together as a family. Prior to moving to the area, we were all involved as a family in providing hospitality for homeless families through a ministry called Family Promise,” he said. “We now enjoy dramatizing these familiar family stories and some new. The children love voicing parts as well as providing background instrumental music. The podcast is completely consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”

Last September, the Catholic Family Stories podcast was born, and features Joseph and Maureen, as well as their children; Emily, 22; MaryKathleen 21; Joey, 18; Christopher, 16; Christiana, 13; Nicholas, 10; and Cecilia, 8; in various recordings.

Topics include Perfect Candle, Happy Thanksgiving, Charlotte’s Hat, It’s My Party and more. Scordato said each podcast features an introduction, the dramatized story, a prayer and an original meditation song.

“The stories are set in a wide range of genres, including classical style fairy tales and even science fiction,” he said. “I was proud to introduce my daughter’s poetry recently. Some appeal to children where others are written for teens or adults.”

A recent episode for August features a superhero origin story that puts a surprising twist on the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, Scordato said. His children enjoyed composing and performing the podcast’s theme song, titled, “I was Born to do This,” taken from a quote attributed to St. Joan of Arc.

Each member of the family plays an instrument: Joseph plays guitar; Maureen plays piano and bodhran; Emily plays flute; MaryKathleen plays harp; Joey plays bodhran; Christopher plays guitar and flute; Christiana plays harp; Nicholas plays flute and Cecilia plays violin.

“We end each episode with the traditional Franciscan salutation ‘Pace e Bene,’ which is Latin for ‘Peace and Goodness,’” he said. “There are so many more stories I have written or that are in the works. We cannot wait to share these and more original music. We are currently playing with the idea of publishing some of the stories as either separate children’s stories or a compilation to encourage parents to read to their children and aid in forming a fun family narrative of faith within their own family culture.”

Joseph, Maureen and their family moved to the Milwaukee area three years ago and are members of St. Charles Borromeo in Hartland. Joseph serves as a lector at both St. Charles and the Basilica at Holy Hill and his boys are altar servers. The eldest girls play their instruments with the Holy Hill Choir.

Feedback on the podcasts has been extremely positive and Catholic Family Stories hold the 22nd position in American Children’s Podcasts.

“While having a strong listenership throughout the country, we were surprised to receive such a varied international interest, particularly in countries we had not expected, such as Iran, Norway, India, South America and lower Asia countries,” said Scordato. “We are currently ranked in the top 100 podcasts for children and family both in Thailand and the Czech Republic.”

The couple’s strong desire to share the faith stem from their Catholic missionary evangelization background. Following Joseph’s involvement with campus ministries, he became a postulant with the Missionary Servants of the Holy Trinity, before he realized God was calling him to another vocation.

“During this same time, Maureen served with the National Evangelization Teams (NET). She was one of the ‘Netters’ picked to greet St. John Paul II when he arrived in Denver for the World Youth Day,” he said. “We both have a passion for youth ministry.”

Those interested in listening Catholic Family Stories podcast can find them on iTunes, Apple Podcasts, Google play, Spotify and any most podcast sites.

“Recently, Pray.com reached out to us to include our podcasts on their platform as well,” said Scordato. Those unfamiliar with podcasts can find it online at www.catholicfamilystories.org. Additionally, those interested in our children’s music or performances can find information at www.emeraldwindmusic.com. You can find our first music video, created for this year’s Milwaukee Irish Fest Stay at Home Festival at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmlRhy25u6A. It is about the dream St. Patrick received when captive in Ireland.”

The Scordato Family can be contacted at CatholicFamilyStories @gmail.com or through the Emerald Wind Music website.