Popular EWTN Radio Host Jerry Usher Journeys to Priesthood

Co-host of ‘Take 2 With Jerry and Debbie’ heads — once again — toward holy orders, eager to serve God’s people in a new way: ‘I just want to try to be a conduit of the mercy of God and the love of God and give people hope.’

Jerry Usher
Jerry Usher (photo: EWTN)

Jerry Usher, the popular co-host of EWTN Radio’s daily Take 2 With Jerry and Debbie show with Debbie Georgianni for more than eight years, recently announced to his listening audience that he is going to return to seminary and advance to the priesthood for the Diocese of Orlando, Florida. Presently 62 years old, he said that, God willing, next year he will be studying at Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in the Boston area. Shortly after the announcement, he spoke in detail with Register staff writer Joseph Pronechen about his decision, his position now, and his hopes for the future.


Are you currently living in the diocese?

I’m living in a rectory at a parish. They call it a pastoral year. And it’s for me to get acquainted with the local diocese and for them to get to know me better.


Can you tell us how all this came about, recounting your journey and retracing your steps, because you had been in the seminary previously?

I was first in formation for the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon, from 1989 through 1995. So it has been more than 20 years since I was in formal formation. During that time, I got my undergraduate degree in philosophy and theology as a seminarian at Franciscan University. Then I did two years of major seminary theology studies. Then, one year, my final year, was in a parish doing what I’m doing now as a pastoral year, where the pastor assigns you to any of the ministries that you’re allowed to do that are not reserved just for clergy.

I took some time out of seminary. I didn’t expect it to be 28 years. The door was left open for me to come back. But it’s interesting. Not long after I took some time out of formation, I knew about Catholic Answers very well, but I got to know them personally. They told me they decided to start a radio show and hired me to create and host the show. So I did.

In addition to hosting that show, I was being asked to come out to different stations and networks by the managers of those networks to host their on-air fundraisers. Most call them pledge drives. I was gone about half of the year. It wasn’t serving the radio show Catholic Answers Live. It wasn’t really fair to the show that I was gone so much.

So I had to pray for a couple of years about what God wanted me to do. I ended up leaving Catholic Answers in 2009 to host the radio fundraisers around the country full time, which I did until this last spring. In May, I hosted my last one.


So how did considering going back to study for priesthood come about?

I was at a men’s retreat last November 2022. And the thought came back to me during that retreat about priesthood. For a week or so, it just kept getting stronger and stronger — until it was just really overwhelming. And I thought, “Wow, it has been so long.” I was asking myself, “God, what does this mean? What is this about?” So I just prayed with it and sat with it for a while. I got no specific direction in my prayer — like this diocese or that order or whatever. It was just generally feeling called to consider the priesthood again.

So I called a small number of friends around the country, asking them to pray for me. One happened to live in an area called The Villages, Florida, which is in the Diocese of Orlando.

She mentioned it to a priest in the diocese. And God bless him, the first thing he said was, “Why doesn’t Jerry apply here to our diocese?” When my friend repeated that back to me, I didn’t have a good reason why not. So I did. 

Jesus didn’t appear to me. I had no apparition of the Virgin Mary. It was just that. That’s as complex as it gets. A priest said that comment, and I decided to apply.


And you are still co-hosting Take 2 With Jerry and Debbie?

I’m still hosting Take 2 With Jerry and Debbie. The bishop and the vocation director decided that since I’ll be spending this year in a parish, there’s no reason why I couldn’t continue to do the show for the coming year, which I don’t know exactly how long that means — until May, and I get sent to another summer assignment, or until next August, but I decided to tell people listening for the coming year.


From where are you continuing your radio show? 

I’m at the Basilica of St. Paul in Daytona Beach, a beautiful church. I’m doing it from here.


Please share some of the things you are doing for the diocese from the basilica there.

Obviously, serving Mass on weekdays and Sundays. I’m going to be visiting a lot of people: [in] hospitals, nursing homes, the homebound. I’ll be taking Communion to a lot of them. The parish needs a new website, so I will oversee the building of the new website. And I’ll be teaching adult faith-formation classes in the evenings. That’s all I have on my plate right now.


Once you get back into the seminary, how long before you would get ordained?

Including this year, it will be three or four years, because I finished first theology and second theology back in the ’90s, so officially I have two years of seminary studies left. And then you count this year in this parish; that’s three years. And it’s not certain yet whether they’ll ordain me a priest after these three years or maybe I’ll be ordained a deacon and spend a fourth year in a parish as a deacon first. I kind of dropped out of the sky into their laps. They didn’t see me coming. And I didn’t see it coming either.


Because there are likely many Spanish-speaking people who would be your future parishioners, do you speak Spanish?

I do. I’m probably above beginner, but maybe not quite to intermediate. There are many, many people here who speak Spanish, and I’ve asked several of them to help me learn my Spanish better. So I’m looking forward to doing that while I’m here.


Since you will be continuing your show until next year, can you share how Take 2 With Jerry and Debbie came about?

When I left Catholic Answers Live in 2009, the general manager at EWTN at the time, every time we talked, said, “We’ve got to get you back on the air.” 

And I said, “The reason I left the radio show is because these pledges drives were taking up too much of my time. I don’t really have the time to do that to do it justice right now.” 

But he kept hammering away at that, and I kept praying about it. 

About two years before the show actually launched, I got the inspiration with the name of the show: Take 2. And I knew I wanted to have a female co-host. Debbie and I complement each other so well because I’m single; she’s married. She has kids; I don’t. We’re both Catholic. Her life history and mine complement each other very well. So I made the program proposal pitch to EWTN.

We’ve been on-air eight years and three months now, I think.


Once you go back into seminary, you will have to wrap it up then.

I would have to step away from the show. Whether it’s permanent, I don’t know. Obviously, I have to be ready to go where the bishop is going to assign me and do what he tells me to do. And if that leaves time for doing the show, maybe I can get back on a show with Debbie. I don’t know what the future holds in that regard. But I am prepared to do whatever the bishop decides is God’s will for me.


Once you are ordained, do you have any particular hope or goal that you could share? Or is it too early to ask that?

Well, I think this is probably going to be stating the obvious, but having the gift of being able to consecrate the Eucharist and hear confessions will be just mind-blowing. The thought of administering the sacraments has always just really been so profound and beautiful to me. And to think that one day I may be the one doing that with the power of the Holy Spirit, of course, is very, very humbling, but also very beautiful. So that's one thing — celebrating sacraments.

And I think just helping people in the world today. There’s just so much suffering and anger and hatred and everything out there in the world that I just want to try to be a conduit of the mercy of God and the love of God and give people hope in their lives.