Former Idaho state senator and his wife use YouTube videos to tell the story of Catholic parishes and people.
The following story appeared in the January 27 Idaho Catholic Register.
Gordon and Sandy Crow spend most of their retirement years on the road in their camper home shooting videos of Catholic parish life for MassTransit. They plan an Idaho trip this spring. (Courtesy photo/Gordon Crow)
By Gene Fadness
HOWARDWICK, TEXAS – It was Catholic media that drew Gordon Crow, a former Idaho state senator, to the Catholic faith. Now Crow and his wife, Sandy, devote nearly all the time during their retired years producing videos on their YouTube channel, MassTransit, hoping their work will have the same impact on others.
“We want to share the beauty of the Catholic Church by capturing and sharing the beauty of Catholic parishes,” Crow said.
For example, their most recent video tells the challenges of merging seven parishes in Iowa, a challenge not unfamiliar to Catholics in Idaho who have experienced the merger of their parishes with nearby parishes to form a larger congregation.
Crow and his wife have been living out of their motorhome, visiting and filming parishes in Wisconsin, Kentucky, Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri.
Now they are in Texas, filming at parishes in that state as well as in Oklahoma. And next on their itinerary: a return trip home to Idaho.
They hope to be in southeastern Idaho in April, starting out at Soda Springs-based Good Shepherd Parish and its stations in Lava Hot Springs, Montpelier, Preston and Malad.
“The responses to the videos have been very pleasing to us,” Crow said. “There has been zero negative response.”
Crow is careful to have his videos reviewed by the pastor and parish leaders to ensure there are no errors, surprises, or misleading information.
The videos focus on the laity and their ministries, but priests are critical to their success as well. “Many of the priests don’t want to be featured in the videos, but they are the anchor of the parish,” Crow said.
The Crows aren’t raking in cash from the videos, but they do hope to offset expenses by free-will offerings at the larger parishes they feature. They are also aiming for 1,000 subscribers to their YouTube channel, the threshold needed for them to start earning money from the ads that will appear on their YouTube channel.
To see the channel, type in “MassTransit,” in the search engine on YouTube or go to youtube.com/user/sanoroo/featured.
Crow grew up in southern California in a loving, devout Church of Christ family that attended services every Sunday and Wednesday night. “In the Church of Christ the only unforgiveable sin was all of them,” he jokes.
He attended elementary school at Yorba Linda, which is now the site of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library, possibly planting a seed for his later venture into politics.
During his teen years, Crow delved into some of the sins his Church of Christ frowned upon. “I made my three brothers and one sister really well-behaved.”
During the height of his teen rebellion, he moved out of the house his senior year. “I was not too compliant at school, either, so just weeks before graduation the vice principal asked me to leave school.”
He dropped out, got his GED and enlisted in the Air Force. After active duty, he served in the Army Reserves.
EVEN THOUGH HE had rebelled against his Church of Christ upbringing and said he was “spiritually adrift,” he never lost his faith. “I always believed in God, always believed that Jesus was my savior,” he said.
After his military service, he visited several Protestant churches, such as the Foursquare Gospel.
He married his first wife in 1977, at age 22. They moved to the Tri-Cities area of Washington state, where he was a banker in Kennewick. They had a daughter, Cori Jean, but were later divorced.
Crow moved to Coeur d’Alene, accepting work with an electronic engineering firm.
It was there that he met his current wife, Sandy Ward, who he married in 1987.
Crow converted to his wife’s Lutheran faith. “I went from a very legalistic Protestant denomination to a ‘hyper-grace’ denomination.” Crow liked the emphasis on grace. “I embraced it, I drank it in,” he says of his newfound faith. “It helped me get over some of the anxiety that I had developed in my personal faith formation. My best friends in Coeur d’Alene were all Lutheran. We dove into the Word deeper and had some great theological discussions.”
He and Sandy were not able to conceive, but, through Lutheran Social Services, in a just a few short months they were able to adopt their son, Andrew, now 30, who they call “Roo.”
CROW BECAME INVOLVED in the Coeur d’Alene community and in the local Republican party. Idaho Gov. Phil Batt recruited him to run for a State Senate seat that for a number of years had been occupied by a Democrat.
“I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, but I won the first time I ran with 60 percent of the vote.” He served three terms, promising his wife that he would serve only as long as she wanted. Serving in the Legislature meant living in Boise for three months of the year and making long trips there for off-session meetings.
In the Legislature, Crow befriended the only other practicing Lutheran, Sen. Bruce Sweeney, who happened to be the Democratic Minority Leader. Although Crow was committed to his party, he wasn’t going to let that dictate the friendships he formed in the Legislature. “I realized rather quickly that I wasn’t elected to make good laws as much as I was to witness Christ crucified,” he said.
The lieutenant governor, who pre-sides over the Senate, was Butch Otter, who later became governor. Otter, a Catholic, frequently asked Crow or Sweeney to offer the prayer to start the day “because our prayers sounded almost Catholic,” Crow joked.
Crow also became friends with another Lutheran roaming the halls of the Capitol – this reporter. Legislators often didn’t become too close to members of the media, but Crow said he remembers “Gene Fadness very well, not just because he was a reporter, but because I knew he was a serious Lutheran like me.”
Crow’s journey into Catholicism started partly because of increasing dissatisfaction with creeping liberalism in his Lutheran congregation, which was part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), one of the more liberal branches of Lutheranism.
“The ELCA was moving away from traditional theology to full-blown secularism,” Crow said.
By this time, the Crows were living in Laramie, Wyo., where he was the president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce. He and Sandy would drive 60 miles each Sunday to attend a more conservative Lutheran congregation in northern Colorado.
From Laramie, Crow was recruited by the Chamber of Commerce in Houma, La.
It was in the predominately Catholic state of Louisiana that Crow’s friendship circle changed from one that was Lutheran to one that was mostly Catholic. “Most of my board members at the Chamber of Commerce were Catholic, so I started researching the Church.”
Even though Crow was raised in a staunchly Protestant home, he did not, like some, grow up with distrust or malice toward Catholics. “The Church of Christ was not anti-Catholic as much as it was anti anybody who was not Church of Christ.”
It was here that Catholic media took on a bigger role in his research.
In a letter to Father Joseph Lustig, Crow writes that a few months before he became Catholic, “I came across an old (October 2006) broadcast of ‘The Journey Home,’ featuring the same Gene Fadness I had come to know in Boise. (We reconnected, both joyful that each had been led to the Catholic faith.)”
He listened to Ave Maria Radio and watched EWTN. “I watched every episode of ‘The Journey Home,’ and started reading Catholic books,” like “Rome Sweet Home,” by Dr. Scott Hahn and “Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic,” by David Currie.
ONE DAY, WHILE listening to Ave Maria Radio, Crow heard an interview of Bruce Sullivan, a former Church of Christ minister who had converted to Catholicism. “I remember that he asked, ‘If the Catholic Church was established by Peter, why would you not want to be a member?’ ” That question by Sullivan, who recounts his own story in the book “Christ in His Fullness,” made perfect sense to Crow. “Something inside me changed at that moment, I can’t quite describe it.”
After hearing that radio interview, Crow, still fairly new to his job in Louisiana and with his wife not yet relocated there, decided to start RCIA classes. After Crow, well-read and well-versed in Catholicism started attending a few classes, the priest-instructor told him, “You’ve got too much energy for the rest of the class,” and said he would give him private lessons twice a week. “That was a huge benefit and blessing to me,” Crow said.
During the midst of his instruction, Crow’s career took him to Marshall, Minn., where he then continued with a more traditional RCIA. Most of the members of his class were also Lutheran. During the Easter Vigil in 2014, Crow received Confirmation in the Catholic Church.
His wife and son were not overly enthused. “Once in the car, I was all chatty about my Catholic faith and both Sandy and Andrew were telling me, ‘Stop with the Catholic Church stuff! We’re not ever going to be Catholic!’ ” Andrew, influenced by a Catholic priest while playing football for Nicholls State in Louisiana, was received into the Church in 2017. A year later, Sandy surprised her husband when she signed up for RCIA, and was received into the Church in 2019.
“I don’t want to sound boastful, but they both said they had noticed that my becoming Catholic had helped me to become a better husband and father,” Crow said.
Now, they are on a different journey of faith, one that has taken them thousands of miles across the upper Midwest, to the Southwest and eventually, hopefully, on to Idaho.
Catholic media helped bring Gordon Crow home and now he seeks to strengthen the faith of practicing Catholics, reignite the faith of those fallen away, and perhaps, as happened with him, get non-Catholics to ask themselves, “If the Catholic Church was established by Peter, why would I not want to be a member?”
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