FORT WAYNE — Parishioners of St. Jude Parish in Fort Wayne will have an opportunity to join a small faith-sharing group this Lent as the Why Catholic? program returns. The second phase of the four-year program will focus on prayer, a continuation of Phase 1, which began last fall with 160 participants.
Why Catholic?, developed by RENEW International, the Catholic ministry organization that recently presented ARISE Together in Christ, is a comprehensive adult formation program that began in earnest across the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend in fall of 2015. The four-year program is based on the four pillars of Catholic faith as presented in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, offering insight into prayer, core beliefs, the sacraments and morality.
Mary Pohlman, pastoral associate at St. Jude, is excited about the program and said, “We’re gearing up for Phase 2. … Most of the groups are going to reconnect, so we’re off to a good start.”
Father Jacob Runyon, pastor of St. Jude Parish, led a small group during Phase 1 and said of the program, “We brought Why Catholic? to St. Jude because of the recommendation of the bishop. But, I did find it good that the content was based upon the catechism. I think there is a great deal of hesitancy when it comes to reading the catechism because people find it a bit overwhelming. A program like this one helps them to learn from the catechism in an approachable way.” He added, “I think the benefits to individuals is a chance to learn, study and to meet new people.”
Father Runyon has also decided to utilize Why Catholic? teachings in a large group experience. “So, for Lent we are having our Thursday evening Lenten program, but we are using the content of Why Catholic?,” he said.
Members of several Why Catholic? small faith sharing groups are excited to begin again. Jeff Rose, chairperson of the Why Catholic? Committee at St. Jude, facilitated one of the 16 groups that participated in the program last fall. The groups met once each week in homes or the church to follow the readings and discussion reflections provided by the program. “I think it’s really important to have a strong understanding of the Catholic faith. It helps people make better decisions and appreciate the faith more,” said Rose, adding that being exposed to the variety of prayer forms within the Catholic Church has inspired him to attend daily Mass more often as well as participate in Eucharistic Adoration at St. Jude’s Adoration Chapel. One of the best parts of the program is “the sharing that goes on,” said Rose.
Jackie Hinsey couldn’t agree more as she recalls her participation in her established group that has met for years to discuss the upcoming week’s Scripture, when they welcomed Why Catholic? in their midst. “I feel as people understand the faith a little more they connect with each other. It changes you. You want to go to church more and be a part of things there,” she said.
She believes the group is especially supportive of members wherever they are on their faith journey. “The group accepts you wherever you’re at, and whatever you want to contribute,” she said. With the youngest member at 22 years old all the way to the 90s “there’s a great depth of people who bring their insights and perceptions. It’s very enriching,” Hinsey concludes.
Another group that is gearing up for Phase 2 of Why Catholic? is led by Sally Niedermeyer. She too is part of an established group that meets on a regular basis to discuss upcoming Scripture. The group is made up of nine to 12 members some of whom have come into the Church in recent years. Niedermeyer said of group, “It’s nice to get other people’s take on our faith and on our practices.” And she appreciates “the cohesiveness and sense of community — the closeness you get when you meet on a regular basis.” Following the conclusion of the first phase of prayer as the topic of Why Catholic? in the fall, Niedermeyer’s group was inspired to visit Saint Anne Communities to sing Christmas carols to the residents there. This Lent they plan to meet the Monday before Ash Wednesday to prepare for the Lenten program and will meet during Holy Week to watch a movie about Christ’s passion that will inspire them to deeper faith and understanding.
Of the teachings of Why Catholic?, Father Runyon encourages, “The catechism is our sure and certain guide for the content of our Catholic faith. It is a beautiful and insightful document. However, if anyone has ever felt overwhelmed by the Catechism, Why Catholic? provides a path to begin studying the Catechism in a way that may be more approachable for those who are just starting out.”
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