Small Community Leaders Trained to get Parishes Ready for Lenten Program

News Editor

MORRISTOWN — Leaders, who are ready to facilitate small adult faith-formation communities in about 20 parishes in the diocese [of Paterson, NJ] that have opted to participate Why Catholic? Journey through the Catechism this Lent, are charged with “encouraging, motivating and praying for” their small community members to seek a deeper level of faith that will inspire them to spread the “Good News” to the world.

That was the Spirit-filled message 420 Small Community Leaders of these small faith-sharing groups that are at heart of the Why Catholic? process in their parishes heard at a training sessions held at various churches in the diocese last week.

These leaders received training before sign-up on subsequent weekends, during which numbers of faithful “signed up” or will “sign up” for Why Catholic? at their participating parishes. Why Catholic? gives participants an opportunity to pray together; to gain a deeper understanding of what we as Catholics believe, how we worship, how we live and how we pray; and to share their own faith experiences.

"Why Catholic? is a guide to the four pillars of the ‘Catechism of the Catholic Church,’” St. Joseph Sister Eileen Rush of the Plainfield-based RENEW International, which developed Why Catholic?, told Small Community Leaders, during training at St. Margaret of Scotland Parish here. “The purpose of the small groups is for their members to grow in faith, community, conversion and mission so they can go out beyond themselves and the group and evangelize.”

At St. Margaret’s — like with training at other locations in the diocese — Small Community Leaders received tips about how to facilitate the small groups for Why Catholic? which is offered in both English and Spanish. More than 20 parishes have chosen “Why Catholic?” among the many evangelization processes offered to parishes in the diocese to help them take up Bishop Serratelli’s call for local Catholics to get more involved in spreading the Gospel.

In St. Margaret’s parish hall, Terri Apuzzo sat with fellow Small Community Leaders from her parish, St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Stirling, to listen to Sister Rush’s suggestions, while reviewing Why Catholic? study materials.

“I love God and I want other people to experience the love of God that I feel,” Apuzzo said. “I also hope other people’ experiences God will inspire me.”

The inspirational Why Catholic? process kicks off Sunday, Feb. 22, when small groups of 8 to 12 people begin to meet for the first of two series of six weekly 90-minute sessions (see sidebar for schedule of “Why Catholic?” events). Participants will draw from Catholic texts such as “The Catechism of the Catholic Church” and “Our Hearts Were Burning within Us,” the U.S. bishops’ pastoral plan for adult faith formation, along with the Bible.

Among these participating parishes is St. Margaret’s, which will embark on the only Spanish-language Why Catholic? process in the Church of Paterson. The night of Sister Rush’s training session, St. Margaret’s leaders of its Spanish-language process received training in Spanish in the parish church.

Among those Spanish-speaking Small Community Leaders up in the church was Karol Bedoya, minister of St. Margaret’s young adult outreach, 10-Plus. For the sessions, the ministry’s 20 members will divide into small groups on Sundays.

“Our young adults are evangelizers already. I hope Why Catholic? will strengthen their faith so they can go outside the group [to evangelize],” Bedoya said. “I also hope it will help me answer some of the questions that I get about the Catholic faith from other people.”

During training last week Sister Rush also reviewed study materials with the facilitators. Other parishes that hosted training were: St. Thomas, Sandyston; St. Jude, Hamburg; Annunciation, Wayne; Our Lady of the Mountain, Long Valley; and Our Lady Queen of Peace, Hewitt, West Milford.

Why Catholic? parishes should expect “results — more stewardship: more volunteers, more catechists, more lectors,” declared Dominican Sister Rickard, RENEW’s executive director, who spoke about the process in the diocese last year.

Tips for Leading Why Catholic?’ Small Community Sessions
Schedule of Spiritual Events for ‘Why Catholic?’ Participating Parishes
    When facilitating “Why Catholic?” small community sessions, Small Community Leaders should:
    • Be honest and open and responsive to group members.
    • Enable each person to share on the level on which he or she feels comfortable.
    • Respect the role of silence in the group sessions. Silence gives participants time to reflect before sharing and between sharings.
    • Encourage all group members to participate. If they don’t speak during sessions, maybe they can share in another way, such as by singing or playing an instrument. Delegate responsibilities such as reading and time keeping.
    • Maintain confidentiality. This cultivates honesty within the group.
    • Keep in mind that the action that flows from these small group meetings is essential for the growth of individuals and community.
    Sunday, Feb. 22 – Sunday, March 29: the first six weekly small community faith-sharing sessions to cover the following topics: Desire for God; God’s Revelation: Tradition and Scripture; Faith: I Believe, We Believe; The Trinity, The Mystery of Creation; and The Incarnation.
    Tuesday, April 28, Wednesday, April 29, Thursday, April 30 or Saturday May 2: regional Faith Enrichment Workshops, “Scripture and Tradition: The Braid of Revelation,” on any of these dates at various locations at diocese, open to entire parish.
    Fall: Sign up Sunday weekend to give parish faithful an opportunity to join Why Catholic? small communities.
    Sunday, Oct. 4 to Sunday, Nov. 8: six additional small-community weekly faith-sharing sessions to cover the following topics: The Public Life of Jesus; The Paschal Mystery: Jesus’ Death and Resurrection; The Holy Spirit and the Church; One Church with Diverse Roles; Mary, Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church; and We Believe in Life Everlasting.
    Tuesday, Dec. 1, Wednesday, Dec. 2, Thursday, Dec. 3 or Saturday, Dec. 5: regional retreats, “Discovering God in the Ordinary,” on any of these dates at various locations in the diocese, open to the entire parish.

Reprinted with permission of The Beacon, newspaper of the Diocese of Paterson, N.J. Beacon photos by Michael Wojcik.

Click to learn more about Why Catholic?/¿Por qué ser Católico?

About RENEW International RENEW International is a canonically-recognized Catholic organization based in Plainfield, NJ, in the Archdiocese of Newark. RENEW International fosters spiritual renewal in the Catholic tradition by empowering individuals and communities to encounter God in everyday life, deepen and share faith, and connect faith with action. Since 1980 RENEW International has revitalized parish life in over 150 dioceses in the United States, touching the lives of 25 million people through its renewal processes. RENEW International also reaches many thousands outside the United States, having served people in 23 countries, across six continents and in 44 languages.