By Claire Kenney
It was a Tuesday evening during the second week of Advent, and a small group of parishioners from St. Augustine Parish, South Bend, gathered in their deacon’s living room. Annie Tardy, the wife of Deacon Mel Tardy, scurried about extending hospitality to their guests, who varied in age and time as members of the parish. But they all had one thing in common: a desire to properly prepare themselves for the coming of the Lord at Christmas.
Deacon Tardy and Annie host various Bible study series throughout the year. Each focuses on something different and is designed to accommodate the parishioners’ busy schedules.
“I’ve found that our parishioners are hungry for Bible study,” Deacon Tardy said. “We’ve had successful seasonal Bible study discussions during Lent and Easter, and the season of Advent proved successful as well, since we had more time to unpack the richness of the Sunday readings.
“Hosting it at our home allows folks to be more informal and at ease, plus our Bible study group reflects the diversity of our parish, which is a blessing,” he went on to say. “So we prepared for Advent not just by getting to know the Scriptures better, but by getting to know each other better as a parish community.”
“I believe Jesus meant for us to do as he did; to meet at times in large and at times in small gatherings to hear the Word as a means of hope for the world of today,” Annie added.
The structure of each session was fairly straightforward. “For the most part, we read and reflected upon the upcoming readings for the subsequent Sunday Mass,” Deacon Tardy said. “We began with opening prayer, song and the lighting of Advent candles.”
Participants of the Advent Bible Study agreed that the sessions were beneficial.
“Advent and Bible study provide a time to reflect, away from the tensions and busyness of the season,” said one. Another said that although she wasn’t a regular reader of the Bible, attending Bible study with a group encouraged her to think about the readings, to examine what she read and to ask questions.
On the second Tuesday of Advent the group focused on Gaudete Sunday, a time to rejoice in the Lord. The session fittingly started with a very lively song and a favorite of the parish, “Hallelujah Anyhow.”
During the discussion, Deacon Tardy encouraged the group to endeavor in joy.
“Spiritual warfare is real. But God is real,” he said.
Hope was a secondary topic that organically stemmed from the subject of joy, and the group shared stories of interactions they had recently experienced with others who seemed to be missing hope in their lives.
When discussing the night’s reflection, one participant said, “Tonight I was reminded to live from the inside out instead of the outside in.”
“Listening to people share how these Scriptures relate to their daily lives, I heard how they share the good news at the bank, in the grocery (store), and on social media,” said another. “This is evangelization.”
At the end of the study, the group reflected on writings from “Evangelii Gaudium,” the Book of Isaiah and Pope Francis’ short book, “Mercy from the Manger: Encouragement and Daily Prayers for Advent.” Aligned with the waiting attributed to Advent, the literature concentrated on slowing down to do God’s true work. This, then, brought full circle the conversation about helping people find hope.
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