Meet: Space Painter Tom Sparough
Catechist, retreat leader with unique style name Communicator of the Year
Northside (OH) resident Tom “the Space Painter” Sparough will receive The Salesian Guild’s Communicator of the Year award tomorrow. Made up of area reporters, writers, and other communicators, and named after the patron saint of writers and and the Catholic press St. Frances de Sales, the Guild meets once a year for Mass, a dinner presentation, and the award ceremony. Last year’s honoree was Enquirer reporter Mark Curnutte; recent winners include former news anchor Nick Clooney; Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk; comedian Michael Flannery; Son Rise Morning Show host Brian Patrick; Fr. Greg Friedman, OFM; and many more.
Juggler, storyteller, writer, and catechist Tom Sparough has performed across North America and Europe for churches, conferences, schools, and events, where his unique combination of talents makes him a popular presenter with groups of all ages.
In demand at diocesan religious educaiton conferences, youth rallies, and leadership events, he also teaches religious education at his home parish, St. Clare (College Hill/Cincinnati) and facilitates retreats around the region. With his wife, Geralyn, he also operates Creative Retreat, LLC, which facilitates marriage and family retreats, staff renewals, and other events.
The author of several books, Sparough has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and worked as a newspaper reporter and editor for several years. He has a master’s degree in psychology from the University of Cincinnati, which combines with his communicaiton and performance skills for a unique approach to teaching and sharing the faith.
Here he is in his own words, on his career and the Salesian Guild:
The Salesian Guild is linked for me to not only St. Francis DeSales, but to St. John Bosco. St. Bosco is the founder of the Salesians, the Patron Saint of Youth, and a juggler! He is the reason why I joined the guild. I feel my winning this award is a tribute to St. Bosco.
Many people who haven’t experienced my work have trouble seeing the value in it. They hear the word “juggler” and think of circus and clowns. They wonder how could juggling be something more than that? It is simple, really. My presentations are more than that, because I am more than that.
I am person of depth faith. I have been blessed with the ability to convey the faith through storytelling and analogy. Because I am a kinesthetic learner, I have been compelled to translate prayer into gesture, movement and ritual. Because I am a natural facilitator, I have mastered many group dynamics that elude others. In short, I am trying to make good use of my God-given talents.
Most people don’t think of conveying our faith with humor and action. My sense of humor always comes through in my presentations. This helps me to engage people’s attention, just as my carefully chosen juggling draws people in. These are tools I use to lead people to our faith. Most directly, I share the faith through story and analogy, which is the primary method Jesus used.
I thank the many people who believe in, support and encourage my work. The positive feedback I have received over the years is somewhat daunting to me. Many people have told me they are praying for my ministry.
It is not uncommon for me to receive heartfelt feedback after a presentation. After a student retreat this past year, one of the parents passed on to me that her son, who doesn’t usually enjoy retreat experiences, told her, “the presentation by the juggler was amazing and insightful.” The son also told his mom, “if I ever have children that question the Catholic faith, I will have this person come to my home!”
For many years I have worked toward a vision of myself as an old man who still juggles, tells stories, and brings people together in faith. In that sense, I have a couple more decades to go before I reach my dream!
For information about presentations by the Space Painter or retreats from Creative Retreat, LLC, click on the links above.
Header photo courtesy stock.xchng; portraits courtesy Tom Sparough.
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