An Interview with Dr. Sebastian Mahfood, OP

by Gordon Nary



Gordon: How was En Route Books and Media, LLC, founded?


Dr. Sebastian: I founded En Route Books and Media in 2014 with the help of some good friends, including my colleague Dr. Ronda Chervin and former graduate students Shaun McAfee and TJ Burdick, as a way to assist the faculty of HolyApostles College & Seminary with the publication of their work. Over the years that followed, I've published dozens of faculty books and in so doing increased our faculty profile among current and prospective students. To support the production costs of the academic collection, I created a number of other lines of books with broader sales appeal in the areas of Catholic spirituality, fiction, children's literature, practical spirituality, apologetics, and memoirs.


Gordon: What are your primary responsibilities as President at En Route Books and Media, LLC?


Dr. Sebastian: My primary responsibilities as President at En Route include visioning future steps for En Route, cultivating new authors, approving new books from current authors, overseeing the production process of each new title, working with authors on marketing plans, handling their marketing and promotion both within Catholic social media and to around 300 Catholic bookstores, and distributing author royalties twice a year. Since its founding seven years ago, En Route has published over 200 Catholic books with plans to reach a publication total of 1,000 Catholic books by the end of the decade.


Gordon: How are books from unknown authors evaluated?


Dr. Sebastian: En Route's operational strategy from its inception has been to assist in the cultivation and promotion of new Catholic voices from among the community of HolyApostles College & Seminary. What started with a lot of faculty publications soon turned into requests from students for publication of their work and, beyond the Holy Apostles community, requests from faculty at other schools and leaders of Catholic apostolates around the world. Current authors recommend and introduce the company to new authors. Once a manuscript arrives from a new author, I review it for content, writing quality, and consistency with the mission to promote the Catholic spiritual journey and reach out to the author to discuss his or her idea of audience. If I think there's a good match between the product and its potential for En Route, I accept the manuscript; if it's not a good match, I wish the author the best in his or her continued pursuit of a publisher and will usually assist those efforts with an interview about the work on WCAT Radio, the podcast of which they can use promotionally following publication.


Gordon: Please share with our readers an overview of how you use WCAT Radio .


Dr. Sebastian: I founded WCAT Radio with the help of my colleague Dr. Ronda Chervin and her good friend Bob Olson in 2016 for the purpose of promoting the themes found among the books published by En Route. Within a short time of its founding, Bob Olson had developed a dozen unique radio programs, some of which are already into their 250th or so weekly episode. In 2018, I changed the model from live Internet programming that included call-in numbers that allowed people to engage the show hosts to pre-recording and posting of podcasts to which people could listen onemand.


In 2019, WCAT Radio became a 501(c)(3), receiving its IRS tax exemption status in January of 2020. In addition to hosting 75 unique programs (which include at present a growing collection currently at around 8,000 podcasts), WCAT Radio engages in special missionary projects such as the development and promotion of LIFE Runners chapters all over Africa, the printing and distribution of books by Mary Kloska in Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the direct financial assistance of elderly, migrants, and refugees in Lebanon and Italy.


Gordon: What were your responsibilities as Adjunct Online Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Holy Apostles College & Seminary ?


Dr. Sebastian: I started at Holy Apostles College & Seminary, working remotely from my office in St. Louis, MO, as an interim Director of Distance Learning in the spring of 2011 and enjoyed the work so much that I accepted the role full time alongside an associate professorship in interdisciplinary studies in the spring of 2012.


Within a year, I was appointed as Vice-President of Administration and within a couple of years following that as Vice-President of External Affairs and a full professorship. I retired from my full-time position in September of 2021 after ten years of service. The highlights of my administrative career include increasing the number of online adjunct faculty from 5 to 65, the development and launch of two 100% online undergraduate degree programs, the redevelopment of three 100% online graduate degree programs, the successful navigation of the graduate school through reaccreditation by what is now the New England Commission of Higher Education and through initial accreditation by the Association of Theological Schools, the processing of just shy of a million dollars in grant money, and the current launch of a 100% online Master of Divinity in the New Evangelization for laity.


While I remain on the faculty as an adjunct professor, the courses I teach (my Ph.D. is in English with an emphasis in literature) include undergraduate humanities courses like Catholic Literature, Tolkien and Lewis, and Intercultural Competencies and graduate literature and philosophy courses like Dante's Divine Comedy.


Gordon: What are your responsibilities as Provost of the Sacred Heart Institute for the Ongoing Formation of Clergy in Huntington, NY?


Dr. Sebastian: I formed in 2012 during the consolidation of the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception with St. Joseph's Seminary-Dunwoodie an online program of study for the priests and deacons of the Archdiocese of New York and the Dioceses of Brooklyn and Rockville Centre in need of continuing education units (CEUs) mandated by their bishops. My responsibilities are to prepare and promote ten online mini-courses per quarter (we run 40 a year) for selection by the priests and deacons interested in the theological and pastoral content the courses provide. I also invite participation of the priests and deacons in the activities of the Institute for Theological Encounter with Science and Technology (ITEST) located online at https://www.faithscience.org.


Gordon: What are your responsibilities as the interim director of the Institute for Theological Encounter with Science and Technology?


Dr. Sebastian: I joined the Institute for Theological Encounter with Science and Technology (ITEST) at the invitation of its founder, Fr. Robert Brungs, SJ, and his associate director, Sr. Marianne Postiglione, RSM, in the fall of 2006 because of the work I was doing at the time as an educational technologist at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary (where I served, alongside my role as associate professor of intercultural studies, from 2000 till 2012). When I accepted the position at Holy Apostles, the board members of ITEST helped me form a new apologetics concentration in the MA in Theology program (which I subsequently moved into the MA in Pastoral Studies program because of its ministerial nature). I became interim director in early 2021 following the retirement of Dr. Tom Sheahen, who had served as its second director following the death of Fr. Brungs in 2006. Over the past couple of years, I've been responsible for upgrading the website, generating monthly webinars, and promoting the complementarity between faith and science within three dozen dioceses.


Gordon: What relationship do you have with the Dominican Order?


Dr. Sebastian: In the fall of 2006, following completion of my doctorate, I began pursuing coursework in scholastic philosophy (the philosophy of Aristotle and St. Thomas) at Holy Apostles College & Seminary. Among the many things I encountered during my time in the program was the Dominican understanding of study as an act of prayer, which I learned from a lecture by Fr. Brian Mullady, OP, produced and distributed by the Rosary Center. I walked down the hallway of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary at the conclusion of the lecture to the office of Fr. Tom McDermott, OP, to ask if he knew of a Lay Dominican chapter in St. Louis, MO. Thus began in 2008 my attachment to the Lay Dominicans. I was temporarily professed in September of 2009 and fully professed in December of 2012. The highlights of my years as a Lay Dominican include my having served for six years (from 2013 till 2019) as the moderator of the St. Louis Chapter of the Most Holy Rosary and my having served for almost five years as acting moderator of a Lay Dominican community in Cedaredge, CO, which was conducted entirely through Skype from January of 2017 till August of 2021, a period that carried seven novitiates through their candidacies into their final professions. Many of the books En Route publishes are Dominican in spirit due to the complementarity between the Dominican Order and the academic programming at Holy Apostles College & Seminary. At present, I remain a member of the Most Holy Rosary chapter in St. Louis, MO, in the Central Province of St. Albert the Great, where I live with my wife, Stephanie, and children, Alexander and Eva Ruth.


Gordon: Thank you for an exceptional and incisive interview.