Why Catholic? Begins Next Week in 106 Parishes
Thousands in the Archdiocese to Join
in Adult Faith Formation Process During Lent

Marnie McAllister, Record Assistant Editor

Thousands of parishioners from more than 100 parishes around the Archdiocese of Louisville have committed to reinvigorating their faith by taking part in a new adult faith formation program that starts next week.

And they’re excited about it, too, said Sal Della Bella, director of faith formation for the Archdiocese of Louisville.

“They are excited to gather together as adults to learn not only about their faith, but how they can live it every day,” said Della Bella.

Why Catholic? — a process for adult faith formation developed by RENEW International — will commence in 106 parishes with the start of Lent. The program will be conducted over the course of four years in six-week sessions to be offered during Lent and before Advent each year. It is available in Spanish — under the name ¿Por Qué Ser Católico?

The parish-based program aims to help people learn about the faith, get excited about it, give them practical ways to live it and foster spiritual renewal, Della Bella said. The subject of the program this Lent is “The Celebration of the Christian Mystery: Sacraments.” And there are a variety of ways people can take part.

The most hands-on opportunity will be offered in the form of discussion groups called “small Christian communities.” Some parishes have just one small group, while larger parishes have up to 20 or more groups, each with about 8 to 10 participants. And people are still signing up.

Late last month, more than 900 people from local parishes were trained to lead these small communities. At the well-attended training sessions, enthusiasm for Why Catholic? was palpable, said Della Bella.

“It was phenomenal. We had 950 people, and they were all volunteers,” he noted during an interview last week. “There is a genuine excitement about this.”

The small groups will meet weekly for six weeks — through the end of Lent.

People in the groups will be encouraged to share their faith with one another and reflect on their own relationships with God. In the process, Why Catholic? creators hope participants will develop friendships and form a community.

“Their role in this is to help them support one another ... to engage more in the faith both in the parish and in daily life” beyond Lent, Della Bella said.

Those who can’t take part in these small communities can participate in other ways.

Some people will join in by praying and fasting.

Others plan to keep track of the process through bulletin announcements, which will offer information about the sacraments during Lent.

Parishes also have weekly handouts called “Renewing Family Faith” that families can use to study the sacraments at home.

Teachers, catechists and youth ministers can use lesson plans provided by Why Catholic? to take a child-friendly version of the program into schools and parish education programs.

Ken Rosenbaum, the coordinator of Why Catholic? for St. James and St. Brigid churches in Louisville, said the program has been well-received at the Highlands parish cluster. At last count, 136 people had signed up to be in small communities.

“I’m passionate about it,” said Rosenbaum during an interview Feb. 27. “I think it’s going to be a real plus for people who get involved.

“When we come together at Mass as a large community, it doesn’t allow us to get to know one another, to share our faith with one another and learn from one another,” he noted.

Why Catholic?, he said, will foster those things in the congregations at St. James and St. Brigid.

“This gives us the opportunity to be a true faith community,” he added.

Rosenbaum said he hopes the experience helps him to reflect upon his relationship with God and to “remember how God is present in my life each day.”

He said he looks forward to hearing other people’s thoughts about God and expects participants to learn from one another over the course of their weekly meetings.

Kara Hand, a member of St. Frances of Rome Church, took part in the archdiocese’s young adult discipleship program a couple of years ago. That program brought together young adults in a small-group setting, and they formed a community. In fact, their group still meets monthly.

She’s hoping Why Catholic? will build on that process and bring to her a greater understanding of the church’s teachings.

“I feel like I’m really well-grounded in the faith,” she noted during an interview last week. “But sometimes when someone asks me a question about the faith, I don’t know how to explain it.”

Hand also has a daughter in fourth grade who’s enrolled in CCD.

“It’s important for me to know I can teach her the faith, too,” said Hand, “to work along with the CCD classes.”

Each theme of Why Catholic? is conducted in two six-week sessions. The first part of this year’s theme, the sacraments, will be conducted during Lent this year. The fall program will diverge from the plan, however, to allow Catholics in the archdiocese to learn more about the new Roman Missal, which will be used beginning in Advent this year, said Della Bella.

The program will continue next year with the sacraments during Lent. The next theme will begin in the fall of 2012. The themes in the order they will be addressed are the sacraments; “Christian Prayer: Deepening My Experience of God”; “The Profession of Faith: What We Believe” and “Life in Christ: Walking With God,” which focuses on morality.

More information about the program is available online at www.archlou.org. Other resources also are available, including a listing of archdiocesan agencies for people looking for ways to become more involved in the church; items in the archdiocese’s media center, such as videos; classes offered by the Office of Lifelong Formation and Education; and teaching editorials on page four of The Record that will address the sacraments during the month of March.

This article originally appeared in The Record, the Catholic newspaper of the Archdiocese of Louisville and is used with permission.

Learn more about Why Catholic?

Discover RENEW International's Lifting Up Our Hearts:
Praying with the Third Edition of the Roman Missal,
a six-session small group faith-sharing process
that will renew parishioners' spiritual life
and their appreciation of the liturgy.