By Kay Cozad
FORT WAYNE — St. Patrick Parish, on the south side of Fort Wayne, is rich with three distinct cultures thriving there. Pastor Society of the Divine Word Father Andrew Thu Pham shepherds his diverse congregation that includes Hispanic, Vietnamese and Anglo cultures, members of whom make up the over 100 devout participants in the faith sharing “Why Catholic?” program.
“Why Catholic” is a comprehensive adult formation program that began in earnest in 22 parishes, including St. Patrick, across the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend in 2015. The program is based on the four pillars of the Catholic faith as presented in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, offering insight into prayer, core beliefs, the sacraments and morality.
Developed by RENEW International, the Catholic ministry organization that recently presented ARISE Together in Christ, the four-year program includes workshops, faith enrichment events and prayerful small group discussions that help parishioners relate Catholic teaching to their everyday lives and according to its website www.renwintl.org is suited for small Christian communities, parish catechists, RCIA candidates, parents with children preparing for sacraments and families looking to deepen faith. The program offers several translations including English, Spanish, Vietnamese, French, Chinese and more, so participants can meet in language specific small groups in homes or parishes.
Father Thu Pham said the program that began in October, has helped unify the three cultures in the parish. “My hope was to use “Why Catholic?” to help parishioners learn more about their faith and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It gives them an opportunity to meet and share and know one another better.”
He continued, “’Why Catholic?’ is a continuation of the ARISE program and was encouraged and supported by the local bishop (Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades). It’s based on Scripture and the catechism, so I think is a good thing with a solid foundation. Now we just have to use it, share it and live it.”
The eight-member Anglo group at St. Patrick is as diverse as the parish population said coordinator, Paul Offerly, with each of the three cultures represented including their Vietnamese pastor, Father Thu Pham. The group meets once a month in the church and follows the “Why Catholic?” 12-session booklet. Each session begins and ends with prayer, offering relevant Scriptural readings followed by reflections from the book and time for discussion. Offerly has been inspired by learning so much about the medley of prayer forms the Church offers from the Liturgy of the Hours to contemplative prayer. He said, “I’m interested in the different types of prayer and look forward to seeing how different people pray.” As for the program he added enthusiastically, “I would encourage everyone to go to one of the meetings. Give it a try!”
Ilda Galvan is coordinator of the nine Hispanic groups that meet four times each month in various members’ homes, with time off through the busy holidays. The groups, each comprised of eight to 12 men and women who are intentional about deepening their understanding of the Church’s teachings, chose to meet weekly to allow more time for discussion and reading the Bible. Galvan, who came to the U.S. from Mexico 20 years ago, said it is easy to get caught up in life’s demands. But the “Why Catholic?” program has helped her to see that “the first thing in your life is Christ!”
One group of six Vietnamese parishioners and a family of four meet in varies homes each month to study the “Why Catholic?” program. Coordinator Chien Nguyen is inspired by the 12-lesson program and said, “I like it. You learn about the Catholic faith. You learn about prayer. And you learn about how to share the Gospel with people.” After Father Thu Pham spoke to Ntuyen about the program he agreed that he would like to take it to his cultural community within St. Patrick. “I want “Why Catholic?” to spread out to my community. I hope they can join with our group,” he says.
For more information on “Why Catholic?” or parishes offering the program contact Allison Sturm at email@example.com or call 260-399-1452.
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