The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has launched a new podcast series to help area faithful transition back to in-person parish life after weeks of COVID-19 restrictions.

The Arise podcast explores Catholic life in the archdiocese and offers reflections on the word of God as it speaks to us in our own day.

The show’s title is derived from that of the Arise initiative, a multifaceted archdiocesan effort that offers a wide array of resources for parishes in navigating the coronavirus crisis.

Featuring Father Richard Owens, O.F.M. Cap., Father Eric Banecker (parochial vicar of St. Pius X in Broomall) and Gina Christian (, the podcast presents the truth, beauty and goodness of the Catholic faith to Catholics, fellow Christians and all those who seek something more.

The series, which is slated to run for six to eight episodes, features a two-part interview with Archbishop Nelson Perez, who shares his insights on faith amid the pandemic, his return to Philadelphia and his love of pizza and Star Trek.

If you’re accessing this podcast on a mobile device and do not wish to download the SoundCloud app, simply click on the “Listen in browser” option. You can also find us on StitcherGoogle Play, and iTunes.

Scroll down for a full transcription of the Arise podcast’s first episode.

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The Arise podcast, Episode 1 – An Interview with Philadelphia Archbishop Nelson Perez

(Music: “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today,” instrumental acoustic guitar performance by Johnny Markin; see the credits at end for details.)

Father Richard Owens: Welcome to the Arise Podcast. This is Capuchin Father Richard Owens.

Father Eric Banecker: And this is Father Eric Banecker.

Gina Christian: And I’m Gina Christian.

Father Richard Owens: Where we explore Catholic life in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and reflect on the word of God as it speaks to us in our own day.

Father Eric Banecker: Our guest today is the 10th archbishop and 14th bishop of Philadelphia. He was appointed to that position by Pope Francis on January 23rd of this year and was installed on February 18th. Archbishop Nelson Perez, welcome to Arise, the podcast.

Archbishop Nelson Perez: Thank you, Father. It’s great to be here with you guys.

Father Eric Banecker: I mentioned those dates. At the time, they seemed to be pretty close together. A lot of people said that there was a short distance between your appointment and your installation.

Archbishop Nelson Perez: You got that right.

Father Eric Banecker: But it turns out that turned out to be a wise decision, huh?

Archbishop Nelson Perez: Well, I didn’t think so at the time, to be honest with you. Ordinarily, I think according to church law, an ordinary has to be installed within 60 days. But because of the nuncio’s schedule, as well as Archbishop Chaput, they wanted to do it on the 18th of February, which was really three weeks after the announcement from the Holy See. So I spent three weeks in Cleveland, I’ll be honest, complaining to the Lord as to “Why are you doing this to me?” Because I had to wrap things up in Cleveland. I was still doing confirmations and meetings and events, and I had all this stuff that I needed to do, as well as pack and wrap things up. So it was really hectic, so I spent every day in my holy hour in chapel in the morning basically complaining and asking the question, “Why are you doing this to me? Why does this have to be so fast?” I never really had a formal farewell from Cleveland, either. There was no time to do that. The only thing I (had) … A wonderful group of young adults I got close to, at one of their homes, we had Mass and a dinner, and then we took our guitars and played until 1:00 in the morning or something.

Father Richard Owens: Well, that’s fun.

Archbishop Nelson Perez: That was it.

Father Eric Banecker: Yeah.

Archbishop Nelson Perez: But then go forward a month, and now it’s a month that I’m here, and then I understood why the Lord did what he did, because everything had been shut down already.

Father Eric Banecker: [Crosstalk 00:02:11]

Archbishop Nelson Perez: So it would’ve been a real downer, I think, if we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to celebrate. Because it wasn’t my installation. It’s the installation of the Archbishop of Philadelphia. That’s way bigger than me. It just happened to be me now. But it’s a celebration of the church of Philadelphia, and it was able to happen, and that was great.

Father Eric Banecker: That’s great. Yeah.

Father Richard Owens: Sure. Archbishop, what is the best part of being back in Philadelphia, the great city of brotherly love and sisterly affection?

Archbishop Nelson Perez: At one level, I’m back around cheesesteaks, right? Do you really —

Father Richard Owens: But I understand that you’re a big fan of pizza.

Archbishop Nelson Perez: And pizza. I have a favorite place, which I’m not going to say (to) everybody else, but it’s actually here, and every pizza I eat is connected to that one. That’s the benchmark. That’s actually the benchmark. The other thing is being back around friends and familiar faces that we go back a long, long time. 30 years with some, over 30 years. That human part is great to be back. And just being back around familiarity, you know? For me, in a sense, it’s coming back home. With everything that is entails, right? It’s coming back home. My time in New York and Cleveland were wonderful. The people of Cleveland were… I love them. They’re just incredible. And I continue to remain connected to them. But a lot of my long-time friends were actually here, and now I have friends there in New York and Cleveland as well, so in that sense, I’m very blessed and very rich.

Father Eric Banecker: Yeah. What would you say are the similarities and differences between those three dioceses that you served in?

Archbishop Nelson Perez: The similarities are that people in all three dioceses live their faith intensely, those who did. They were very multicultural. They were ethnic dioceses in a lot of ways. In Long Island, there was an enormous Polish community and an enormous Latin American community, one-third. That’s the sixth largest diocese in the country, so Hispanics on Long Island were 530,000.

Father Richard Owens: Wow.

Archbishop Nelson Perez: As big as a mid-sized diocese in the United States, right? So that was similar, as it is here. Philadelphia is a place of a lot of different ethnic groups and a large Hispanic group, and Cleveland was the same. Right? A lot of Eastern Europeans in Cleveland. Polish and Lithuanians and Slovakians and all that. A lot of Eastern Europeans have been there for a long time. The first Catholic Hungarian community was founded there. St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish was the first parish for the Hungarian community over 125 years ago. So Cleveland, more so than New York, is a church of neighborhoods, like Philly is. In many ways, I would say that Cleveland was basically Philadelphia without the cheesesteak and with the pierogies. That’s what Cleveland was, actually. You could close your eyes and you could think you’re in Philly, actually.

And there’s great connections. The third bishop of Cleveland was from Philadelphia, Bishop (Ignatius Frederick) Horstmann. In fact, there are Horstmanns that work in the diocesan building, and there’s a Horstmann family actually at St. Agnes in West Chester, descendants of Bishop Horstmann. And of course, Cardinal Krol, who was … You guys never met Cardinal Krol, but Cardinal Krol was Archbishop of Philadelphia I think from ’61 to ’87 or ’86 or something like that, 20-plus years. He was a priest of Cleveland and an auxiliary bishop in Cleveland, and then came here. So there’s been this back-and-forth synergy between Cleveland and Philadelphia for a long time.

Father Richard Owens: Sure.

Father Eric Banecker: We have a better football team, though.

Archbishop Nelson Perez: I would say so, and they would say so, too. Though I did see the Eagles and the Browns play in a pre-season game, and the Browns won that year.

Father Richard Owens: Archbishop, would you describe yourself as an extrovert?

Archbishop Nelson Perez: No, I’m totally an introvert. Yeah, what do you think? I’m totally a … No, I’m an extrovert, yeah.

Father Richard Owens: So what’s the hardest part about adjusting to quarantine?

Archbishop Nelson Perez: I think the hardest part for me is that I have not been able to do what I wanted to do coming here, and really what was all set up to happen.

Father Richard Owens: Sure.

Archbishop Nelson Perez: But it’s not something that won’t happen, either. I was going to do deanery Masses and gatherings with priests in each deanery, and bringing people together, and visit our high schools and elementary schools and institutions, which is what I … It is what I like to do, but it’s also the role of the bishop. It is part of the life of a bishop. And that, I started off well. I was able to visit a parish, do a confirmation. I went to Little Flower, it was great. Little Flower High School.

Then the bottom fell out with COVID, and none of that has been happening. So my only interaction with the people, so to speak, is really virtually. And I’m doing a lot of that. Many of my days are spent actually doing that in meetings and pastoral stuff as well. So I miss that, precisely because I am an extrovert and I like to be around people. People don’t bother me. They energize me, and that’s kind of not there.

Father Eric Banecker: Yeah, yeah.

Father Richard Owens: Sure.

Archbishop Nelson Perez: So that’s a little tough. I’m sure you guys would feel the same way.

Father Richard Owens: Definitely. Definitely.

Father Eric Banecker: Absolutely, yeah.

Father Richard Owens: Archbishop, a lot of people are catching up on Netflix and reading books at this time. Are you doing either?

Archbishop Nelson Perez: Yes, I caught up on Star Trek. The latest Star Trek.

Father Eric Banecker: Oh, the new Star Trek, okay.

Archbishop Nelson Perez: Yeah.

Father Richard Owens: Okay. Cool.

Father Eric Banecker: That’s great.

Archbishop Nelson Perez: Yeah, I love Star Trek.

Father Eric Banecker: Archbishop, you came really with a message of faith and hope for our local church and for all people here in the area. What are some signs of hope you’ve seen, just in your short time back, even amid this pandemic?

Archbishop Nelson Perez: Well, certainly the installation that the archdiocese had was a great sign of hope, right? I sense a great sign of hope and happiness. I probably knew half the people that were there, if not more, from all sorts of different assignments, and that was a great sign of hope.

I think people’s desire … You know, Philly’s been through a tough time, and I think the resiliency of the Church of Philadelphia is in and of itself a sign of hope. A sign of hope. Even in the midst of this coronavirus pandemic and the fact that there’s no playbook for this, we’re all making it up as we go along, people are resilient even in that. Even in that. So I think the resiliency in and of itself is a sign to me of hope.

Father Eric Banecker: Well, Archbishop Perez, thank you for joining us today, and we’ll look forward to part two of our conversation.

Archbishop Nelson Perez: Great. Thank you. Thank you, Fathers.

Father Eric Banecker: Thank you.

Father Richard Owens: Thank you, Archbishop.

(Music: “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today,” instrumental acoustic guitar performance by Johnny Markin; see the credits at end for details.)

Father Richard Owens: A reading from the Acts of the Apostles. After Jesus had been taken up to heaven, the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath’s day journey away. When they entered the city, they went to the upper room where they were staying. Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the zealot, and Judas son of James. All these devoted themselves in one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus and his brothers. The Word of the Lord.

Today we reflect on this passage taken from the Acts of the Apostles, and of course the context is Jesus had already ascended up to heaven. He’s returned to his Father. The disciples found themselves in this liminal space, difficult times, uncertain of their future, wondering where to go from here, not too unsimilar from our current situation. But if you’ll notice, instead of walking away without hope, the disciples gathered in the upper room, that place where Jesus broke bread with them just a few days earlier, that place where they had this rather intimate encounter with Jesus, and they gathered together as sisters and brothers to pray, to ask God to give them strength and to ask God to give them guidance.

While we cannot physically gather in our upper rooms and our churches, we can of course gather together as a domestic church, as friends and family together, to do as the disciples did, to pray, to ask God to give strength, to give us encouragement, to give us guidance, and try to find hope in these rather difficult times.

There’s a great story of a mother and her son who gathered to pray as she was preparing to tuck her son in for bed, and the son said, “God, please give me a skateboard.” He said it a little louder. “God, please give me a skateboard.” And he appealed even a little louder. “God, please give me a skateboard.” And the mother said, “Hey, Ben, God is not deaf.” He says, “I know, but my grandmother is.”

So today, remember that God is not deaf, that he obviously hears our prayers. So let us ask God to give us strength, to give us encouragement as we say hail Mary, Full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed are thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen. Our Mother of Perpetual Help, pray for us.

Gina Christian: You’ve been listening to the Arise Podcast with Capuchin Father Richard Owens and Father Eric Banecker. I’m Gina Christian, and for more resources and information on the Arise Project, visit Thanks for listening.

This podcast has been a production of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Our engineers are Jhoselyn Martinez and Gina Christian. Music by Johnny Markin, taken from the Instrumental Acoustic Hymns Project, owned by Essential Christian under the imprint Elevation, with an arrangement copyrighted by Music Services. For more information on the Arise Project, visit