Press Room

How an Elderly Nun Brought Hope, Purpose and Joy to a Young Man at a Crossroads in Life

by Tony Rossi

(originally published at “Christopher Closeup” on

At the age of 31, John Schlimm was at a crossroads. He had spent his 20s working in public relations for the White House, and then, for country music stars in Nashville. From a worldly perspective, he had it made. Yet, he felt restless and empty, as if there was something deeper that needed to be fulfilled in his life.

That quest for meaning led him to leave his job and return to his hometown of St. Marys, Pennsylvania. It was the place where his family’s brewery (Straub Brewery) is located, where he knew the names of all his neighbors, and where he had happy memories of being taught by the nuns at St. Mary’s Church elementary and middle schools and Elk County Catholic High School.

On the advice of a friend, Schlimm visited a small ceramics shop on the grounds of St. Joseph Monastery, which was home to the Benedictine Sisters of Elk County. As he walked through the door, he felt impressed by “this incredibly humble and simple space, filled with the most amazing colors and positive energy.”

Then, Schlimm saw her – the woman who changed his life and inspired his memoir “Five Years in Heaven: The Unlikely Friendship That Answered Life’s Greatest Questions.

The “her” in question was 87-year-old Sister Augustine, who single-handedly ran the ceramics shop and created all its pieces of art. Schlimm noticed a palpable joy in her personality, which was ironic since he used to work with people who had the world at their fingertips yet struggled to find happiness. In contrast, here was a cloistered, elderly nun working by herself in an out-of-the-way ceramics shop who was totally happy and content.

Schlimm sensed that she might be able to guide him toward that deeper fulfillment for which he was looking, so he began visiting Sister Augustine frequently and engaging in hours-long conversations with her about life and faith and all the ways that ceramics can be a metaphor for life.

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BLOG TOUR: Broken Gods, May 28 – June 4, 2015

We invite you to join us for a blog tour featuring Broken Gods: Hope, Healing, and the Seven Longings of the Human Heart by Dr. Gregory Popcak (May 28 – June 4). This virtual book tour will feature honest reviews from Catholic bloggers, interviews with author Gregory Popcak, and a chance to win a copy of Broken Gods.

We’re grateful to our blogging friends for sharing their thoughts and hosting stops on the tour. We encourage you to visit their sites (links below) and read their reviews.



Blog Tour Schedule

5/28 — The Catholic Book Blogger (review)

5/29 — The Catholic Book Blogger (giveaway)

5/31 — Seasons of Grace (review)

6/1 — The Catholic Book Blogger (author Q&A)

6/2 — Amazing Catechists (review)

6/3 — The Browning Version (review)

6/4 — Simple Mama – (video interview with Dr. Popcak)

6/5 — Reading Catholic (review)


About the Book:

In Broken Gods: Hope, Healing, and the Seven Longings of the Human Heart, Dr. Gregory Popcak unveils the incredible vision that God has for each of our lives and provides the tools and resources we need to discover our ultimate destiny. Using the seven longings of the human heart as a foundation, Dr. Popcak demonstrates how the seven deadly sins, the seven divine longings, and the seven heavenly virtues relate to one another.  Although it may seem contradictory, Dr. Popcak show us how our deepest desires, and even our darkest desires, can work together to reveal God’s plan for transformation in our lives. Readers will discover, step-by-step, how to transform the weakest, most broken and even shameful parts of themselves into the engine of their perfection.


About the Author:

Dr. Gregory Popcak, the founder and director of the Pastoral Solutions Institute, is the author of over 20 books and programs and an internationally recognized expert in Catholic pastoral counseling. He has degrees in psychology and theology, as well as a master’s degree in clinical social work and a Ph.D. in human services. He is the host of More2Life Radio, heard on over forty stations around the country. Dr. Popcak’s blog, Faith on the Couch, can be found at He is an in-demand guest on both Catholic and secular radio and television programs and his work has been featured in the LA Times, The Washington Post,  Fox News, U.S. News & World Report, NPR’s Here & Now, OSV Newsweekly, and many other media outlets. Visit him online at



NEWS: Two Image Titles Take First Place in Association of Catholic Publishers “Excellence in Publishing Awards”

The Association of Catholic Publishers (ACP) has announced the winners of the 2015 Excellence in Publishing Awards. We’re honored to announce that two books published by Image have been selected as first place winners in their respective categories.

My Battle Against Hitler by Dietrich von Hildebrand, presented by John Henry Crosby with John F. Crosby, took first place in the Biography category. Sacred Fire by Fr. Ronald Rolheiser took first place in the Prayer and Spirituality category. Sacred Fire was also chosen as “Book of the Year.” The “Book of the Year” is selected from among the first-place finishers.


My Battle Against Hitler

1st place Biography

My Battle Against Hitler, the memoirs and essays of Dietrich von Hildebrand published for the first time in English, offers a glimpse into the heart and mind of one of the 20th century’s most important Catholic thinkers and the Nazi’s public “enemy number one” in Vienna.

Von Hildebrand, a German-Catholic philosopher and theologian, was a vocal opponent of Hitler and Nazism from the onset of the political movement in the early 1920s.


Sacred Fire 

1st place Prayer and Spirituality & “Book of the Year”

In Sacred Fire, beloved author Ronald Rolheiser continues his search for an accessible and penetrating Christian spirituality in this highly anticipated sequel to the contemporary classic, The Holy Longing.

With his trademark faculty and thoughtfulness, Rolheiser moves beyond the foundational aspects of The Holy Longing, by offering readers a deeper vision for Christian maturity as he seeks to answer the question: “How can we live less self-centered, more mature lives?”


The goal of the ACP Excellence in Publishing Awards is to recognize the best in Catholic publishing. Click here to learn more.


PRESS RELEASE: Experience the Morning Homilies of Pope Francis


“Whoever wants to preach must be the first to let the Word of God move him deeply and become incarnate in his daily life.”  – Pope Francis

Shortly after seven in the morning, Pope Francis gives a brief homily in the little Vatican chapel of Saint Martha, in front of an audience that is always different: gardeners, office workers, nuns and priests, as well as a growing group of journalists. It is a set appointment, and in some ways a revolutionary innovation, where a pope speaks to everyone, off-the-cuff, without any written text, as he would have done as a parish priest.

Encountering Truth: Meeting God in the Everyday
(Image, June 16, 2015) is a collection of highlights from these homilies from March 2013 to May 2014. Along with summaries by Radio Vaticana (who recorded and transcribed the homilies) and commentary by Father Antonio Spadaro, S.J., Director of La Civiltà Cattolica, these reflections provide moments of inspiration, simplicity, and a glimpse into the papal world very few ever get to experience.

“In the very first weeks after the election, I thought that the morning Mass at Saint Martha’s with a group of faithful and with the homily was one of the most characteristic aspects of the pontificate of Pope Francis,” writes Father Frederico Lombardi, S.J., Director General of Vatican Radio, in the preface.

“As Pope Francis explains in his apostolic exhortation Evangelli Gaudium, the way in which a priest gives his homilies says a lot about his interior and apostolic qualities, and this continues to hold true when this priest becomes pope,” writes Father Lombardi.

The homilies of Pope Francis in Encountering Truth follow the readings of the day and are therefore arranged in chronological order. Although the homilies are not arranged by category, readers can expect to encounter reflections on a broad range of topics, including:

  • Struggle and challenge
  • Desire and tenderness
  • Faith and ideology
  • Spirit and organization
  • Way and journey

“The pope has even said … that the homily is like a litmus test,” writes Fr. Spadaro in the introduction. “It is a clear and incontrovertible indicator. In fact, it is the touchstone for calibrating a pastor’s closeness and ability to encounter his people.”

Pope Francis’s homilies in Encountering Truth are simple, clear and to the point.  In these homilies, readers will obtain a unique glimpse into the interior thoughts of the man who continues to change the life of the Catholic Church.

“When he preaches, Pope Francis sows a desire and provides directions for the journey,” writes Fr. Spadaro. “It should come as no surprise how rich these homilies are, perhaps even compared to more polished formal discourses. Their nature is, in fact, living thought that arises from direct contact with an assembly that prays.”


POPE FRANCIS is the first Latin American to be elected to the chair of Peter. Born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Buenos Aires, Argentina, he was ordained as a priest in 1969. He served as head of the Society of Jesus in Argentina from 1973 to 1979. In 1998 he became the archbishop of Buenos Aires, and in 2001 a cardinal. Following the resignation of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, on February 28, 2013, the conclave elected Bergoglio, who chose the papal name Francis in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi.


To request a review copy, please contact Katie Moore, publicist,, 719-268-1936.


INTERVIEW: Gary Jansen, editor of ENCOUNTERING TRUTH by Pope Francis

Q. How would you describe this book?

On the surface, Encountering Truth is a thought-provoking and inspiring collection of more than 180 of Pope Francis’s most personal homilies. These are sermons he has given in the simple chapel of his current residence in Vatican City. (Pope Francis has foregone the ornate Papal Palace so many previous Pope’s have called home, living instead in an austere room in a very simple building called the Domus Sanctae Marthae, or the House of St. Martha.) These homilies are intimate, simple and profound, providing a glimpse into the mind of a man who is changing the way we talk about religion, compassion, and hope.


 Q. The current market is saturated with books either about or by Pope Francis, what makes this one different?

Encountering Truth is truly a unique book. I’ve worked in publishing for more than 20 years and when the manuscript arrived (in Italian), I’d never seen anything like it. As I mentioned earlier, it is a collection of Pope Francis’s homilies that he has given in this little chapel in the Domus Sanctae Marthae. But it’s more than just a collection.

First, a little background. The Domus is this rather modern looking building adjacent to the St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. It’s a working hotel for visiting priests, nuns and some lay people who have business to attend at the Vatican. It’s also the place where the members of the College of Cardinals stay during a conclave to elect a new Pope.

Most people do not get to see the inside of this building, but I was fortunate enough to stay at the Domus in 2012 when I was the editor for Pope Benedict XVI’s book Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives. It’s a simple, clean and well-lit place. I attended Mass in the chapel one morning and it was an uncomplicated affair given by a regular priest whose name I never learned. Most of the people in the pews were clergy. Now, since Pope Francis became pope he gives Mass in this chapel many days during the week. And he does it extemporaneously, like a normal priest would do at a daily mass. There’s no pomp, no circumstance. It’s just a priest (who happens to be the Pope) and a few dozen people in pews.

This is not a big event, but it is a BIG EVENT in many ways because Pope Francis opens the doors to this service to local people, blue-collars and white-collars, police officers, electricians, maids, care-workers, couples who have been married for more than 25 years. In keeping with the humbling of the Church, Pope Francis uses these services to talk to regular people. Pope Francis doesn’t use notes—the sermons are off-the-cuff—so there is a rawness to them. They’re organic. They can be a little messy at times, too. And because these sermons are essentially just the Pope “winging it,” there’s no written record of them. But they are recorded. What we’ve done—in cooperation with Rizzoli Books in Milan, Italy, and Radio Vaticana, the Vatican’s radio station—is compile 186 these sermons into a single book.

Now, anyone who’s listened to someone give a sermon or a speech knows that there are high points, where the speaker has our attention, and low points, when the material might not be the most interesting thing we’ve ever heard. The book summarizes the core message of the sermon and then quotes Pope Francis at his most powerful moments. At first I was a bit skeptical about how this would all play out on the page—it wasn’t anything I had ever seen before—but the book works very beautifully. Encountering Truth not only gives you a sense of being present at the service, but provides spiritually digestible ideas that you can ruminate on, meditate with, and ultimately use for prayer.


 Q. Were you surprised by any of the homilies in this collection? Do you have a favorite?

I was surprised at how poignant and moving these sermons were to me. Pope Francis talks a lot about mercy in this book. Those sermons were my favorite; to remind people that God is not looking for sacrifice. God is looking for mercy. Show mercy to your friends, your family, your co-workers, strangers, fellow commuters. Be kind. Be compassionate. The news headlines nowadays makes it seem like we live in a merciless society. There are definitely deep pockets of this type of behavior around the world—sometimes in foreign lands, sometimes right next door—but the majority of people in the world are good people. There are people who show mercy to others. We all need to build on that. We need these reminders that Pope Francis offers us. That’s essentially how we find heaven on earth. Show mercy, and the doors to peace and happiness are opened to you.


Q. What do you hope readers will take away from Encountering Truth?

Each sermon is no more than a couple of pages (some are a single page). For the faithful, I hope readers use the book as a daily devotional. I’d love for people to read a sermon a day over six months and allow the Pope’s words to penetrate their spirit, to lead them to prayer and reflection. For skeptics, or those have an interest in the Pope as a leader, or for those who don’t have a religion or feel more spiritual than religious, I hope it’s an opportunity to see some of the best sentiments that religion has to offer: messages of kindness and compassion, of courage and the need for positive, deliberate action. I think people from all walks of life can find something deep and purposeful in this book. Essentially, I want this book to change readers’ lives.


Gary Jansen is a senior editor at Penguin Random House. He is the author of The Rosary: A Journey to the Beloved.


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