Katie Ascough: “Ireland, for the most part, is a very anti-Catholic country”

Katie Ascough has a project in Ireland, "Called to more", which has a very clear mission: to know, love and serve God. Ultimately, her aim is to "remind people that they are called to live for more and to put God first."

Paloma López Campos-February 25, 2023-Reading time: 7 minutes
Katie Ascough Ireland

Katie Ascough, founder of the platform "Called to more".

Katie Ascough is a young woman called to more. She has an Irish based project, "Called to more" that has a clear mission: to know, love and serve God. By publishing content to help people know better the Catholic faith, she wants to remind us that we are all called to more.

"Called to more" has a lot of resources that can be watched, listened to or read. All this content is free and brings a breath of fresh air. It’s helpful and makes the hardest topics easy to understand.

Katie Ascough, the person behind all this, spoke with Omnes about this project, formation, God’s call and freedom of speech. With sincerity, she explained the difficult situation in Ireland for Catholics and how essential it is to know God better in order to love Him better.

What is the inspiration behind "Called to more"?

–"Called to more" started with my now husband and I after the abortion referendum in Ireland in 2018. We met working for the pro life cause campaigning for a “no” vote. And when that was defeated, we really had to sit down and think where we could be most effective in our next steps.

We felt that, instead of fighting fires, we wanted to work more at the roots, more at the heart of the problem. And we felt that part of that problem was Catholics not knowing their faith very well, and in general, people just not understanding what the faith is and what we believe.

During the lead up to the abortion referendum, for example, we saw people walking up to receive Holy Communion at Mass wearing a “yes” badge, yes for abortion. So it was clear that there was a lot of confusion among even Mass going Catholics.

We really wanted to do something to help Catholics first and foremost to go deeper in their faith, to love God more and to be more effective and equipped to share their faith. So we wanted to take a step back and help shape a better culture from the bottom up.

You have a lot of resources in "Called to more" in order to help Catholics to be formed. What do you think is the most important part of formation?

– I think as Catholics we need to work on ourselves, and that’s me included. So first of all, do we have a relationship with God? And could that be improved? The answer for all of us is yes, it can always be improved. So we need to really be rooted in prayer, frequenting the Sacraments and really have a strong relationship with God.

We also need to know God. We need to have a good understanding of what it means to be Catholic, of what the Church teaches, and a good background knowledge in philosophy and theology, as much as we can. And with that, we can be more effective and more confident in sharing our faith with others. But I think a lot of people try to start with evangelising, and that’s a great intention and something that we need to be doing, but we need to start with ourselves first.

And all that is part of the project you have, “Called to more”, but what does being called to more mean?

– It basically means that all of us, including practising Catholics, are called to more. We divide this call into three pillars: we are called to know God more, to love God more, and to serve God more. Of course, ultimately, this is a call to Heaven. We want to remind people of that call to live for more and to put God first.

You are a young woman and a mother, all that comes with certain challenges. With all that, how can you, with that, fulfill your project? What is the inspiration behind it all?

– First and foremost, I always wanted to be a wife and mother. Being the eldest of seven children, I have always felt called to this primary vocation. And that comes first in my life.

Second to that is my vocation as a journalist. I always knew I wanted to use my career to help other people to encounter God. When I met my husband, Edward, we both had a clear vision for living a personal apostolate. His background is in marketing and branding, mine is in journalism, and it just made a lot of sense to do online media. One thing after another, it all came together and it really fit my vision for my work and what I wanted to do with that part of my life. Today, I run "Called to more" full time and my husband Edward gives his time voluntarily on top of his normal day job.

And, honestly, what keeps me going, are the people who are interacting with our channels and who are messaging in and commenting on the videos. Only yesterday I received an email from a young man in America, saying that the series we are doing with Father Columba is what’s keeping him Catholic. He said he’s found a lot of people that bash him over the head with the faith and that, without love, they try to communicate what the Catholic faith is. But that’s impossible, because love and truth go together.

We are getting messages like that all the time. A lot from young people, a lot from families. Even recently we had a seminarian in Germany say that our content has helped him continue the path to priesthood, which is such a blessing to hear.

Even just one of these stories would be enough to keep going. But it’s just incredible to hear from so many people the impact that our content is having. So that makes it very easy to keep going.

Being a journalist working on Catholic content can close many professional doors in the future. Does it ever scare you to think you might be “stuck” in Catholic media for the rest of your career?

– I’m very happy with where I am, and I always wanted to use my career for something good. And I think the best ‘good’ is our faith and helping people to encounter God. So I would never swap that for any other job.

Secondly, if for any reason in the future I did want to have other career options, I would happily fight (again) for the right to freedom of speech. I really believe in freedom of speech and I’ve spoken up on this topic many times. I’ve been blessed to deliver talks about it, and I’ve been interviewed a lot on TV and radio about freedom of speech because of an experience that happened to me in university that made international news.

And I just firmly believe that we should be allowed to have the beliefs that we have, to have the faith that we have, and to not be ‘punished’ for it. If I can even be a small part of change in this area, and if that means being outspoken about what I believe and having to fight for my right to believe those things later, which I’ve done in the past and I’m happy to do again, then that’s fine with me.

Ireland, at the moment, I would say is a very anti-Catholic country. All this makes any sort of Catholic venture a bit of an uphill battle.

Speaking about freedom of speech and fighting for your beliefs, you were impeached after being elected as UCD Students’ Union President. What happened?

– I attended UCD, the biggest university in Ireland, and was president of the Students’ Union, which is amazing and I was so grateful that I was elected. But then a few months into the role, a small group of angry students ran a campaign to impeach me … because I was pro-life.

This became an international news story, and I was honoured to receive awards across Ireland and in London. I remember renting an Airbnb in Chicago a couple months after getting impeached and the host knew my story because he had read it in the "Wall Street Journal". The story had just exploded. I was getting messages from Australia, all over Europe, America… Literally all over the world. I was getting mostly incredible messages of support and encouragement.

I also think that this was a bit of a backfiring for those who wanted to impeach me because it ended up being an opportunity for me to speak, not only about the injustice of being impeached and freedom of speech, but also about why I’m pro life in the first place. I got to do this in countless interviews for news outlets across the world.

I must say I had a lot of support and prayers. My family was really supportive and they also had so many people praying for me. There were two WhatsApp groups called “Pray for Katie”, and I’m sure these prayers gave me strength.

My faith was such an important rock at that time as well. I was busier than ever but my prayer life had never been better. I was praying, asking God for help, and I felt so accompanied by God. It felt like He was really with me. I’d do it all over again.

From your experience, what do you think is the significance of "Called to more" being made in Ireland?

– In Ireland there is a lot of rejection of the Catholic faith, because the faith and the Church were so strong here for so long, and, to be honest, plenty of the individuals running the Church here were deeply sinful people. Unfortunately, there were scandals and that turned a lot of people off the faith, and I can understand that. But at the same time I think we shouldn’t base our faith on the individuals who run the Church, we should base our faith on and put our hope in God.

So there’s a lot of anti-Catholicism because of that history. And Ireland, at the moment, I would say is a very anti-Catholic country. All this makes any sort of Catholic venture a bit of an uphill battle. But we felt it was really important to have something homegrown and Irish. An Irish Catholic media company, which would have Irish accents, Irish cultural references, that would help people in Ireland relate to the content. A lot of people in the space that we are in are in the United States, so a lot of the online Catholic content comes from America. And that’s incredible, we can gain so much wisdom from them, but it is wonderful as well to have something Irish that not only Irish people can relate to, but they can also be encouraged by having something actually coming from our country.

And more broadly, having something produced in Ireland can help make the offering of Catholic content more diverse, which hopefully is an advantage for everyone.

So it’s true that we need to form ourselves, as seen in what you’ve said about the history of the Catholic Church in Ireland, and platforms like "Called to more" help us do that. Do you think that there are misconceptions that could be solved if Catholics were better formed?

– I like to use the analogy of a married couple. If you didn’t know the first thing about your spouse, you wouldn’t have much of a relationship with them. To know someone well really helps you to love them better. So I think knowing our faith helps us to love God more.

And with knowing God better and loving Him more, we will be much better equipped and in the right space to share our faith with others. So I think that’s the core of it. It breaks my heart to see people leave the faith, not necessarily because of the faith, but because of what they misunderstand the faith to be. That’s a huge shame and we see that happening all the time, especially in Ireland where there is such a cultural understanding of the Church and all things Catholic being bad and wrong. Oftentimes people are rejecting something they don’t fully understand, and they don’t take the time to understand it because it’s wrapped up in so much prejudice and, I would say, confusion.

So I think better formation will help everyone. It will help Catholics, and it will help those who are considering becoming Catholic to actually understand what it is they would be entering into.

Do you think there is anything Catholics should pay more attention to?

– Besides what we’ve already talked about, I think we need to focus a lot more on Catholic community. I’ve really noticed this in my own life, just how essential it is to be walking with other like-minded people.

We really want to encourage people to start living in each other’s lives, especially with their communities at Mass. This is something we are going to be doing in a new series coming out with "Called to more".

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