By MARNIE McALLISTER
Record Assistant Editor
The next six-week season
of Why Catholic? will start the week of Feb. 20. And most parishes taking part in the faith formation process are holding sign-ups this weekend and next.
Catholics around the Archdiocese of Louisville are invited to join in the Why Catholic? small groups to learn more about their faith and share
their own faith experiences.
“It’s a place where people
can come in a small group atmosphere to share their questions and thoughts,” said Sal Della Bella, director of faith
formation for the Archdiocese
of Louisville. “It’s an opportunity to learn more about our faith, to reconnect with the parish community, and it’s an opportunity to meet new people.”
Why Catholic?, he said,
also gives Catholics the oppor-tunity “to think about things they wouldn’t normally think about pertaining to their relationship with God.”
The Archdiocese of Louis-ville adopted WhyCatholic?, a program of RENEW International, last year. It began
during Lent and brought thousands of Catholics together in churches, classrooms and living rooms for weekly meetings.
That first six-week session covered the sacraments of
baptism, Eucharist and confirmation. A second session last fall, called “Lifting Up Our Hearts,” focused on the liturgy and the new translation of the Roman Missal.
This Lent, the process will
focus once again on the sacraments, this time covering the sacraments of reconciliation,
anointing of the sick, holy
orders and matrimony.
“There are two weeks (that will focus) on ‘call’ — the sacrament of holy orders and matrimony,” Della Bella said. “And then it ends on sacred time
and sacred space. That’s really looking at how busy our lives have become and how we can create sacred space and sacred time.”
Debbie Minton, parish catechetical leader at St. Athana-sius Church, said Why Catholic? has been well-received at her parish. Last fall, about 200
people took part in the sessions
on the Roman Missal, she said.
“It’s been a great program. What I have heard people say is, ‘I’ve been a Catholic my whole life and I’m just now getting some stuff,’ ” Minton said. “And they’re just sitting down talking about their faith. They talk about their own story, their own faith. And it changes people.
“We live in a world where it can be tough sometimes to know what to believe,” Minton noted. The Why Catholic? process “is like a reawakening, opening your eyes to the beauty of the Catholic faith and getting to know your neighbors and hearing what they have to say. That’s how we grow in our faith — by sharing our faith stories.”
Mike Ryan, the director of religious education at St. Brigid Church in Vine Grove, Ky., said participation in Why Catholic? continues to grow at his parish.
It began in Lent last year with about 60 people. Last fall, about 90 people took part. Already, 85 people have committed to it for this season, even before the sign-up period, which is scheduled for Jan. 29.
Why Catholic? is attractive, he said, because “It gets down to the meat and potatoes” of the faith, said Ryan, a former police officer who is in formation for the diaconate.
“It’s sparked a revitalized interest” among Catholics old and young, he said, noting that the ages of those taking part range from 19 to 80 years old.
Among Hispanic Catholics at St. Rita Church in Okolona, Why Catholic? has been adapted out of necessity to be multi-generational, said Sister of Charity of Nazareth Isa Garcia, pastoral associate for the Hispanic community at St. Rita.
“We have a lot of young kids in the Hispanic community and the parents don’t have someone to care for the kids,” she said, noting that about 60 people are participating. “So families can bring their children. We have teenagers and kids who are involved.”
And that’s proved to an unexpected blessing, noted Sister Garcia.
“It’s bringing families together,” she said, in addition to “making new friends who have the same values.”
The process is also bringing people back to the church, as participants invite their neighbors and friends to weekly small group meetings, she said, noting that one group no longer qualifies as small, sometimes drawing as many as 30 participants.
“Little by little it’s bringing people back and helping families feel more solid in their faith,” she said.
Della Bella said that he’s hopeful more people will join in the process this season.
“There will be some new groups forming or they can join existing groups,” he said. “Each season we hope to do that.”
Parishes haven’t formally reported how many participants they have, so organizers gauge participation by how many Why Catholic? books have been sold. Last spring, that number reached nearly 10,000.
In addition to taking part in the Why Catholic? process in their parishes, people can connect at the archdiocesan level online. Follow it on Facebook by liking “Louisville Why Catholic.” The local Why Catholic? organizers also keep a blog at whycatholic-louisville.blogspot.com.
By MARNIE McALLISTER