Popular Canadian podcaster welcomed into the Catholic Church

3 mins read
Tammy Peterson
Tammy Peterson, pictured in a Sept. 22, 2023, photo, was welcomed into full communion with the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil March 30, 2024, at Holy Rosary Church in midtown Toronto. Peterson is a cancer survivor and host of "The Tammy Peterson Podcast," which delves into faith and other issues through a countercultural lens. (OSV News photo/Sheila Nonato via The Catholic Register)

TORONTO (OSV News) — In her journey toward the Catholic Church, cancer survivor, speaker and popular podcaster Tammy Peterson has endured her own cross of debilitating illness and loss. Four years ago, she was granted the miracle of healing from terminal cancer and received the grace of inner conversion.

At this year’s Easter Vigil March 30, Peterson’s conversion story reached a new milestone. She joined eight fellow parishioners in receiving the sacrament of confirmation, with an additional three receiving the sacrament of baptism, at Holy Rosary Church in midtown Toronto.

Peterson is married to best-selling author and Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson, who, though agnostic, frequently expresses an interest in faith and the Bible via his popular social media channels.

Tammy Peterson said she was “quite astounded” at the response to her decision to join the Catholic Church, which spread widely through social media. She said people on the street have congratulated and welcomed her to the Catholic faith.

As to why she decided to join the Catholic Church, she said, “I kind of feel like we are in the time of Noah, and it’s time to batten down the hatches, and I think that (choosing) the Catholic Church and all its doctrines is like battening down the hatches, not leaving anything to chance.”

“You just have to make sure that everything is where it needs to be because a storm is coming,” she told The Catholic Register in Toronto.

Peterson is just one of the 1,467 catechumens received into full communion with the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil Masses in the Archdiocese of Toronto this year, with thousands more entering the church across Canada.

Supporting Peterson’s conversion

It is fitting that Holy Rosary pastor Father Peter Turrone, himself a convert from atheism, is the catechist for the catechumens and converts at his parish.

Father Turrone knows the inner workings of a scientist’s mind: He holds a doctorate in medical science and neuroscience from the University of Toronto. Over time, the priest said his cynicism and unbelief were radically transformed after understanding the compatibility of faith and reason.

“I know what it’s like to live without faith,” he said.

“Now, as a Catholic priest, as a man of faith, I know what it’s like to live with faith,” he continued. “I know science can’t prove the existence of God. But the whole universe and everything screams his presence, and so (atheism) is no longer intellectually defensible.”

Queenie Yu, Peterson’s confirmation sponsor, is another Catholic convert, after being introduced to the Virgin Mary and the Rosary while in university.

“Our Lady had such a profound impact on my life that I introduced Our Lady to (Peterson),” she said.

Yu is a numerary member of Opus Dei and character development director at Hawthorn School for Girls in Toronto. After Peterson’s cancer diagnosis in 2019, Yu brought her a rosary blessed by Pope Francis and invited her to pray while she underwent cancer treatments. And so they did, every morning at 10 a.m. in the atrium of Toronto General Hospital for five straight weeks.

Healing and newfound faith

It was at that time, while she was hospitalized and endured painful medical scans, that Peterson learned to pray without ceasing. Several doctors were valiantly trying to find and fix the source of lymphatic leakage in her body, unfortunately without success. The illness wreaked havoc on her body. That summer, her hair fell out, she felt cold all the time and her weight plummeted to 90 pounds. Before that latest health crisis, Peterson had been told she only had 10 months to live.

Peterson revealed that she had been drawn to Catholicism because of Mary. “I think probably deep down I was Catholic all along because when I was a kid in school in the Protestant church, I used to yearn for stories and prayers that were based around Mary,” she said.

Peterson said she was inspired by her newfound faith when she confidently informed her husband she would recover by their 30th wedding anniversary, Aug. 19, 2019. It was on the fifth day of her praying the Novena for the Sick to St. Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, that she was given what she believes is a miraculous recovery.

During the last three months of Peterson’s preparation for Easter, she confronted the reality of life and death once again, grieving the loss of her beloved, 92-year-old father, William Waddell Roberts, who died Dec. 11, the same day her fifth grandchild was born.

Peterson spoke with Turrone about her grief during their online Catechism class. Father Turrone invited her to seek consolation directly from God.

“If you take your suffering to God and then it fills you up, you can give to those people that you love and then they will give back to you, and that’s the way the Church fathers tell us to deal with our suffering,” she said.

The newborn grandchild, George, was given the middle name Waddell in honor of Peterson’s father.

“It wasn’t actually really apparent to me until that moment, and so I’m grateful to my dad for dying on that day that baby was born,” she said, “because I guess he knew that I would be alone and that I would have to understand my grief more thoroughly, and so I felt much relief since then.”

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