By Dr. Sharon Schuhmann
Throughout my life, there have been many people who I would call “my heroes” in the world of Catholicism. Some I will never meet, such as Blessed Teresa of Kolkata or Thomas Merton (although I have visited his hermitage at the Abbey of Gethsemani). Then there are some from ancient history, whose culture would be unfamiliar but who would be spectacular to meet, such as Jesus, St. Peter and St. Mary Magdalene, to name a few.
In my lifetime, my “Catholic heroes” have been men and women who have made a difference in the world of Catholicism and have personally helped me pause and consider new thoughts or creative ways of understanding life. Catholic heroes inspire and challenge, motivate and influence faithful thoughts.
Father Joe Merkt, an archdiocesan priest, is nationally known for his writing that defines lay ministry. He continues providing encouragement for my role in ministry. Ursuline Sister and Spiritual Director Helen O’Brien, encourages pausing and exploring beliefs, prayer and spirituality in ways that affect my life. They are just a few of the many heroes I have found in this archdiocese.
How often can you say that several of your nationally-known Catholic heroes will be in one place in one weekend within an hour of your home? Several of my Catholic heroes will be just west of Louisville off I-64 in Ferdinand, Ind., at the Sisters of St. Benedict this October 7-9.
A Catholic leadership conference hosted by the Sisters of St. Benedict in partnership with Saint Meinrad will bring keynote speaker Dr. Carolyn Y. Woo, president and CEO of CRS (Catholic Relief Services). CRS Rice Bowls, those little cardboard boxes that collect our coins during Lent, and the people involved in CRS around the world have been my social justice heroes for many years and that weekend offers the opportunity to meet and hear from their president.
Great Catholic authors will be there such as Dr. Kathleen Sprows Cummings, Dominican Sister Mary Catherine Hilkert, Dr. Edward Hahnenberg and Dr. Ann Garrido, to name a few, whose writings have filled my heart and soul with words of inspiration and motivation in my faith journey.
Reading about my heroes or reading their works is awe-inspiring. Over the years, when the opportunity presented itself to meet and discuss faith issues with my heroes, those encounters provided a depth of faith discussion I cherish.
Several years ago, after finishing one of my favorite books, “Naming Grace,” the author, Mary Catherine Hilkert, and I were introduced at a preaching conference at Notre Dame. When I was a child, I dreamed of meeting Paul McCartney of the Beatles. That same level of excitement happened in the encounter with Mary Catherine as we discussed theology, Vatican II, women’s issues, preaching and other topics.
For me, a hero is a role model, and a Catholic hero models a life of faith that intentionally reaches out and offers an opportunity for an encounter with Christ. My heart is burning for such encounters with the gifted Catholic heroes arriving in October in our own backyard.
For more information, visit http://womenofthechurch.org.
Dr. Sharon Schuhmann is a member of St. Stephen Martyr Church and is director of children’s faith formation at St. Bernadette Church.