Austin, “THE BASIC CATHOLIC,” is an internationally acclaimed speaker and community builder who has dedicated his life to promoting the faith in ways that are accessible to people of all backgrounds.
As a convert from Judaism, he has a unique way of communicating through humor and whit.
Originally from Moline, IL, he is the oldest child and has five siblings, one niece and four nephews. He has lived and worked in a variety of areas around the world. He was most recently a seminarian, studying for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois when he left during second theology at Saint Meinrad Seminary. Prior to that he served as the Director of Advancement for the Apostolic Vicariate of Northern Arabia. He also studied at Mundelein Seminary under now Bishop Robert Barron where in 2014 he earned a Master of Arts in Philosophy and Religion.
Before entering Mundelein he served as Chief of Staff to Deputy Minority Leader, Representative Tom Demmer in the Illinois General Assembly. Prior to working in the General Assembly, he did his undergraduate studies in political science at Northern Illinois University finishing in 2012. He has worked extensively on numerous political campaigns, serving in various positions from volunteer, coordinator and staff member on local, state and federal elections. He has worked on the campaigns of President George W. Bush, Governor Bob McDonnell, Senators John McCain and Mark Kirk among many others. He also worked for the White House’s Office of Presidential Advance during the 2004 presidential campaign. He has held the position of Campaign Manager from 2010 through 2013 for Representative Tom Demmer and in 2009 for Congressman Bobby Schilling..
Austin enlisted in the United States Navy following graduating from high school and served as a Marine Combat Skills Specialist. In his eight years of service in the Navy, he was stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, NC; Naval Station Great Lakes, IL; Naval Technical Training Command, Meridian, MS; Naval Station Norfolk, Va; and Sheikh Muhammad Naser al-Ahmad Naval Base (Camp Patriot), Kuwait. In 2005 he was recalled to Active Duty to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Military assignments and duties included Commander of the Naval Funeral Service Detail for North Carolina which provided funeral honors for a Sailor killed during the attack on the USS COLE and a Sailor killed on the attack on the Pentagon on 9/11. As a protocol officer, he has served the Secretary of the Navy, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Chief of Naval Operations, Commandant of the Marine Corps and various other flag officers.
His military awards and decorations include, Fleet Marine Forces Warfare Device, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Award (Gold Star in lieu of four awards), Meritorious Unit Commendation, Good Conduct Medal, National Service Defense Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Overseas Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal (with 'M' Device), Rifle Marksmanship Medal and Pistol Marksmanship Medal
Aside from his political and military career, Austin has taught many confirmation classes, presented on a wide-variety of topics to groups large and small, led pilgrimages and mission trips around the world as well as serve as retreat leader to high school students.
He became President & COO of Catholic Connect, LLC in 2019 and enjoys spreading the Gospel to even more people throughout the world in his current position.
Born to a Jewish mother, Austin felt the call to enter the Church during his senior year in high school. He finally entered the Church in 2003, when he was Confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, NC. Following his tour in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Austin entered the seminary in 2006 with the Diocese of Peoria where he studied at the University of Saint Mary’s in Winona, MN.
In his spare time, he enjoys movies, music and spending time with his friends and family, especially his niece Millie, and nephews Payten, Avi, Luke and Walter. He loves traveling and to-date has visited the nations of Canada, Dominican Republic, United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, Czech Republic, Liechtenstein, Netherlands, Rwanda, Italy, France, Holy See, Kuwait, Iraq, Qatar, Uganda, Kenya, Wales, Bahrain, Tanzania, Spain, Israel, South Korea, Philippines, Japan and Hong Kong.
Standing in front of Air Force One at a campaign stop during the 2004 re-election campaign of President George W. Bush.
(Photograph by the New York Times)
Sharing in the excitement with local youth in Uganda as he and his group distribute supplies and sports equipment during a visit in 2015.
Standing with then Papal Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Vigano at the Vatican Embassy in Washington, D.C. after meeting about the work of the Apostolic Vicariate of Northern Arabia in 2016.
Enjoying a restful moment during a two-day safari in the Serengetti National Park in Tanzania in 2017.
Standing with Director Robert Mueller, then the Director of the F.B.I., at the retirement ceremony of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, D.C. in 2012.
Speaking to reporters in his office while serving as Chief of Staff to Representative Tom Demmer in 2013.