Tammy Peterson, left, with friend Queenie Yu, who prayed with her daily as she battled cancer. (Photo by Laura Salem, In His Image Photo & Film Inc.)

Tammy Peterson’s homecoming: Popular podcaster welcomed into the Catholic Church in Toronto


TORONTO—In her journey towards 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 on March 30, the evening of Holy Saturday, Peterson’s conversion story reached a new height. Peterson joined eight fellow parishioners for Confirmation, with an additional three receiving the sacrament of baptism, at Holy Rosary Church in midtown Toronto.

Peterson’s miraculous healing and conversion story is one that has gained traction. The story went viral after it was published in The Catholic Register at the end of October.

Sachin Jose, a Catholic journalist and social media consultant, said Peterson’s conversion is “inspiring” and impactful. Jose notes that “social media has become the primary media avenue for evangelization” and it showed when Peterson’s story was told.

“With a simple post, we can reach millions of people,” said Sachin, who has nearly 150,000 followers on X, formerly Twitter.

“When we post about (Peterson’s husband) Jordan’s comments on Catholicism or related topics, the impressions skyrocket within hours,” he said. “People often share their conversion experiences below his YouTube videos.”

Peterson said she was “quite astounded” by the response to her story, including meeting people on the street who congratulated and welcomed her to the Catholic faith.

“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,” was her response to the question: “Why did you choose the Catholic Church?”

“You just have to make sure that everything is where it needs to be because a storm is coming.” she said in an exclusive interview last September.

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 the nation.

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 is a PhD graduate of the collaborative program in neuroscience from the University of Toronto. Father Turrone’s scientific and empirical background helped Reese Harris, 30, one of the catechumens, to appreciate the deep mystery of the Trinity. Harris said Father Turrone explained it to him this way: “The best way to look at it is like water, (the Holy Trinity) can be gas, ice and steam but it’s all the same thing, but it can show in different forms.”

Over time, Father Turrone said his cynicism and unbelief were radically transformed after understanding the compatibility of faith and reason.

While pursuing an academic career in science at the University of Toronto, Father Turrone said he experienced an “existential crisis” after reading St. Augustine’s Confessions.

“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 is another Catholic convert after being introduced to Mother Mary and the Rosary in university.

“Our Lady had such a profound impact on my life that I introduced Our Lady to (Peterson),” said Yu, who is Peterson’s Confirmation sponsor.

Yu is a numerary member of Opus Dei and character development director at Hawthorn School for Girls. She had been an acquaintance of Peterson’s back then. Now, she is a trusted friend. After bringing Peterson a Rosary blessed by Pope Francis, Yu invited her to pray while she underwent cancer treatments. And so they did, every morning at 10 o’clock in the atrium of Toronto General Hospital for five straight weeks.

It was at that time, while she was hospitalized and endured painful medical scans, that Peterson learned and adopted the practice of prayer 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.

The link between the Catholic Mass and the Rosary is the connection between Jesus and His Blessed Mother, and the Cross and the Resurrection intertwined. Father Turrone, Yu and Peterson all said they share an affinity to Mother Mary and the Rosary.

“(The Rosary) is recognizing the role of the Virgin Mary in salvation history and seeing redemption through Mary’s eyes and accompanying Mary,” Father Turrone said.

Peterson revealed that she had been drawn to Catholicism because of Our Lady.

“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.

Father Turrone said that each of the joyful, sorrowful, glorious and luminous mysteries reflect “how our own lives are intricately tied in a mysterious way to the Rosary.”

The Rosary has been called “the poor man’s Bible” which illustrates “the joys, the suffering, the sorrows, the Passion, and then confronting the reality of death and the certainty of the Resurrection,” he said.

The Peterson family has walked through its own valleys and experienced dark nights of the soul: Their daughter, Mikhaila, battled chronic illness during childhood.

“She was diagnosed with many, many joint replacements when she was seven years old,” Peterson said. “She was very sick … I didn’t know any formal prayer. I just prayed to my Mom.”

In recent years, Peterson and her husband, best-selling author and Canadian psychologist Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, spent some time apart after Jordan’s own brush with death, with his health having deteriorated rapidly after his wife’s cancer diagnosis.

“My husband was so sad. He was so worried about me,” she said.

Yet Peterson said she was inspired by her newfound faith when she confidently informed her husband she would recover by their 30th wedding anniversary on 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 gifted the 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 father before Christmas. William Waddell Roberts, affectionately known as “Dell,” was 92. A former town councillor and hospital board member in Fairview, Alta., Roberts worked as a telegrapher for the Northern Alberta Railway until it closed and became an entrepreneur afterwards.

Peterson spoke with Father 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.

Peterson’s fifth grandchild, George, was born just hours after her father’s death on Dec. 11. The newborn was given the middle name Waddell by Mikhaila, in honour 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 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,” she said.

At Easter, the Rosary’s mysteries will come to life and come full circle: Peterson and her fellow converts will witness Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross in the broken body of the Eucharist as they receive their first Holy Communion. The spiritual threads of conversion, Our Lady and the Rosary, will be tied together in the dramatic Biblical symbolism of leaving the darkness to come into the light at the Easter Vigil.

Father Turrone explained that the Vigil always begins in darkness which dissipates after a fire is lit outside the church. Next, the Easter candle is lit, and the Biblical passage “Let there be light” is read.

Recalling the Old Testament and “the sacred fire that spoke to Moses,” to the New Testament and the light of the candle representing Jesus, “we recognize that Jesus Christ himself is God and that He is the only light of the world,” Father Turrone said. One person receives and passes the light of the candle to another, Father Turrone said, “so we also see the communal nature of our faith is through it spreading (by) the word of mouth that we come to know our faith.”

“We are able to remember actively what God has done for us, so all of salvation history is presented to us in the (Easter Vigil) liturgy under the sign of symbols,” he said.

With that same reception of the Holy Eucharist, the source and summit of the Christian life, as Father Turrone has taught the catechumens and converts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, they will also realize the Easter mystery and the promise, hope, love and victory of the Risen Jesus.

Like the Easter flames that illuminate the church at the start of the Easter Vigil Mass, progressively bringing light from one candle to the next, the Catholic Church continues to grow. The mysteries of the Holy Rosary continue its unending chain of faith in this sacred edifice bearing the same name; to Peterson and her fellow catechumens and converts, it is a welcome home.


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