Guy Doud became famous as an Evangelical Christian.

He has appeared on “Focus on the Family” radio show, “The 700 Club” and the Trinity Broadcasting Network. He has been an author, speaker, evangelical pastor — and even National Teacher of the Year in 1986. As of last Easter, he is also a Catholic.

He spoke with Register senior writer Tim Drake from his home in Brainerd, Minn.

Tell me about your family.

I was the third child in the family. I had two older sisters and a younger brother. My mother was a hairdresser and my father was a policeman. When I was growing up, my parents were nominal church attenders. It wasn’t until my older sister became a Christian while in college, and I became a Christian in seventh grade that my mother, and then my father started attending the Congregational church. It was in that church that I was confirmed.

Early on, our family had a tumultuous time. My two older sisters were born out of wedlock. In little Staples, Minn., in the 1940s, that gave our family a reputation. Both of my parents were alcoholics who later recovered and attended Alcoholics Anonymous. We had a very dysfunctional family in the early years. God has used that to help me minister to a lot of people.

Did you have any early impressions of the Catholic Church?

I had a good friend who was Catholic. He went to Ash Wednesday services and got ashes on his forehead. I used to think that was pretty cool. We used to play “Mass” together. He would play the priest, and I would play a congregant and he would tell me what to do.

I had heard a lot of things about Catholics that scared me. I had heard that after you died you were in purgatory and that people had to pay money to get you out. I had heard that the priest was rounding up money to get a neighbor friend of ours out of purgatory. I thought that was just horrible.

Did you always want to be a teacher?

At the end of the seventh grade and in eighth grade, I had a teacher who made a significant difference in my life and was my inspiration. This teacher was one who discipled me. He took me to a Gospel concert and a Billy Graham movie. That really triggered my faith. I said, “Boy, if I could be a teacher like Mr. Kopka.”

I attended Brainerd Community College for two years, and Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., for two years. I ended up teaching high school English at Brainerd High School.

In 1985 you won the Minnesota Teacher of the Year Award, and in 1986 you won the National Teacher of the Year Award. What was that like?

It was an incredible experience to be chosen from more than 2.5 million people. To go to the White House to meet President Ronald Reagan was a tremendous honor.

Most teachers of the year address political issues such as teacher salaries and classroom size. I talked about how important teachers are in the development of children. I kept getting invitations to travel and speak. Through that, God opened up a ministry for me. “Focus on the Family” picked up one of my talks and played it over the course of a week. It became their most popular program ever. That opened up the whole Christian realm for me.

You also pastored a church for a time. Tell me about that.

I started as a part-time youth pastor at a Presbyterian church. Later, when the full-time youth pastor started his own church in northern Minnesota, he asked me if I would be his associate. I agreed. When he later left to go to Arizona, I became the sole pastor of Christ Community Church. That lasted between 1980 and 1993. I went through a very painful divorce and stepped down from the ministry. In 1999, an evangelical free church came to me. I pastored there between 1999 and 2001.

What led you to first consider the Catholic Church?

There were a lot of things going on in the church that I didn’t like. Both of the churches that I pastored went through church splits, some over doctrinal issues, some over personal issues. What struck me is that there was no authority in the church. If a group didn’t like what was going on, they could go start their own church.

I heard about all of the denominations and divisiveness and my heart grieved. I thought, “This can’t be the way God intended it.”

After leaving the pastorate in 2001, I didn’t go to church for a while. There were two friends whom I had tried to save from Catholicism. When I first met them, they didn’t know much about their faith. They couldn’t defend it. They started getting involved in Cursillo, and I started seeing differences in their lives. They started providing me with literature, and I began reading things such as the early Church Fathers.

I could see that many of the objections that I had were objections I had with the early Church Fathers. I started becoming attracted to Catholicism, especially the quest for holiness.

In the evangelical church, I started seeing a lot of cheap grace — once saved, always saved — that gave license for people to do what they wanted to do without really changing their lives. I could look at my own life and see that I was hungering for something more.

What were the most difficult hurdles for you to overcome, and how did you overcome them?

Having always just prayed to Christ directly, the idea of praying to saints was one thing I found kind of difficult. The whole issue of Mary was difficult. Eventually, I realized that, like all of Christianity, it is about faith. There came a point where even if I didn’t wholeheartedly understand these mysteries, they didn’t keep me from embracing them in faith. The thought of the Eucharist being the body and blood of Christ became an overwhelming attraction to me.

I eventually connected with Father Bill Skarich through my friends, Tom and Betty Rosenberger. Father Bill was very patient in answering all of my questions and reservations. In December, I started praying the Rosary and found such joy in doing that. I was received into the Church at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Two Harbors, Minn., during the Easter Vigil.

       

What was it like being received into the Church?

It was unbelievable. There was such joy! I could go on and on about the differences between the Catholic and Protestant church, but what I found in the Catholic Church was this whole sense of devotion and holiness. There’s still a sense of reverence. In the evangelical churches we were following the seeker-formula. The new line was: “Come to church. Blue jeans preferred.” We had our coffee bars. It was all about trying to attract people. I don’t think it’s possible for you to worship someone you don’t know. I’m attracted to the Catholic Church’s prayers, the kneeling — everything about the Church. It aids me in the quest and sense of reverence and awe towards God.

How did your family react to your conversion?

Two of my children were real happy for me and attended the Easter vigil with me. My other two children can’t understand what I’m doing. They’ve heard me say all these years where Catholics were wrong. I taught them that Mary didn’t remain a virgin and that James was Jesus’ brother. They wonder why I’m doing this.

You left teaching in 1999. What are you doing these days?

I’ve authored six books and I make a living traveling and speaking.

Tim Drake is based in

St. Joseph, Minnesota.