SOUTH BEND — For six weeks this autumn, roughly 100 parishioners from Corpus Christi Catholic Church in South Bend gathered in small groups, deepening their knowledge of Catholicism while praying together, strengthening their faith, and connecting Church teaching to daily life. These groups are part of the diocesan-wide Why Catholic? program, which invites participants to learn from the catechism, read Scripture and engage in faith sharing.
The Why Catholic? program, launched across the diocese the first week of October, is part of a four-year “Journey Through the Catechism,” as the program motto states. This past fall and next spring center on the theme of “Prayer.” Subsequent seasons focus on “Belief,” “The Sacraments” and “Christian Morality.”
Why Catholic? small groups are led by group leaders, who open their homes to participants. Meetings begin and end with prayer, often including a meditative hymn. From there, groups make their way through the reflections, Scripture verses and readings for the day, intermingling questions and discussion between readings. And, of course, there is plenty of time to chat.
Father Daryl Rybicki, pastor of Corpus Christi Catholic Church, shares, “It is exciting that nearly 100 members of our parish chose to be part of this new program exploring the four ‘pillars’ of the catechism. Most people may see the catechism as too detailed or too complex. Why Catholic? has brought the catechism ‘home’ to people, giving them the opportunity to explore, discuss, and learn the basic tenets of our faith in a supportive, rather ‘low key’ and non-threatening way.”
Bob Schaeper, Corpus Christi Parish member and Why Catholic? planning committee member from Corpus Christ, shares that he likes the program because “we all come from different backgrounds and perspectives. These small groups easily allow us to share our perspectives. We find that, by and large, we have similar questions and concerns. This allows us to talk about them. While we may not come up with a definitive answer, we at least understand our perspective.”
He continues, “I find that, generally, while we, as Catholics, know what the Bible says and our traditions, we can become uncomfortable or at a lost for words when others question our faith or why we believe something. So, my hope for this program is that adults understand the Catechism of the Church and feel assured that they are giving the ‘correct’ answer when others (including Catholics) have a question. We need to be less defensive with our answers.”
Nancy Stopczynski, also on the planning committee, has a strong vision for this program, sharing that she hopes “that parishioners are able to strengthen their understanding of our faith, that the small faith communities can bond together, and lastly that we as a parish become an even stronger faith community.”
She continues, “As a recent convert to Catholicism, the “Why Catholic?” program continues to quench my thirst for knowledge about this beautiful gift of faith from God. This program is increasing my knowledge of the Catholic faith. It is allowing me to grow more comfortable with the catechism, and it keeps bringing me into a closer relationship with Christ.”
Jack Horn, member of the Corpus Christi young adult Why Catholic? group, shares that “Why Catholic? is important because it confronts participants with the idea of prayer. Often, our secular society can make it hard to pray. Young adults can too easily think ‘oh, I don’t go to church, pray or receive Communion because the world is too busy.’ It can be easy to think ‘I don’t have time.’ In reality, prayer could take as little as 30 seconds. There really is no valid excuse. It’s like brushing your teeth in the morning: it could take as little as two minutes, and it’s good, so you choose to do it.”
While the fall season of Why Catholic? has come to a close, there will be a new season, continuing the theme of prayer, in the spring. Small groups across the diocese will be welcoming new members. Although Catholic in content, this program is open to individuals of all faiths. While the program extends over four years, participants only need commit for one six-week season at a time.
Father Rybicki encourages participation, saying, “Although the idea of a four-year program may seem daunting and distant to many, spending two seasons of Why Catholic? on each of the four pillars of the catechism will allow ample time for the richness of this beautiful Church treasure to take roots in the hearts and lives of those participating, making them better able not only to explain the faith to others but also to understand it themselves. I look forward to the remaining three seasons and the grace of understanding that they will bring.”
For information regarding participating, contact your parish office to see if your parish participates. To find a parish with a program, contact Cindy Black, director of Adult Faith Formation, at [email protected] or 260-399-1436.
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