Sunday, September 13, 2009

Why Catholic to Threshold

Over the last four years, many of the parishes in our area have participated in the Why Catholic program from Renew International. Over the course of those four years, participants made their way through the entire Catechism of the Catholic Church, with each year devoted to one of the four pillars of the Catechism. Participation was widespread. When the program started, there were over three hundred registered participants from our parish cluster alone. As could be expected, the numbers dropped off a bit over the course of the program, but it still is significant. Regardless of how the individual group leaders might have facilitated the discussions within their groups, it’s hard not to recognize that, at the very least, a large number of adult Catholics in our area became aware of the contents of the Catechism.

The obvious task for those involved in adult faith formation is finding a way to build upon the success of the Why Catholic program. With that in mind, the St. Marys Deanery is promoting the Threshold Bible Study (TBS) within its member parishes. TBS is a topical Bible study. Rather than look in-depth at a particular book of the Bible, each study takes a topic and surveys what the canon of scripture says as a whole about that particular subject. For the first year of the TBS program, the Deanery has selected the study on the Eucharist.

Although I (along with my wife) was a small group facilitator for Why Catholic, I decided already last spring that with all the other things going on, I was not going to sign up to be a facilitator for whatever came next. I’m on the fence about whether to be involved in one of the TBS groups. It’s hard to find the time without taking it away from the family, and, as a participant, you risk having a facilitator who will try to dominate the conversation and take it far off-subject. At the same time, I want to be able to follow along with what everyone else (OK, maybe not everyone) in the parish is studying, just in case it comes up in conversation. So, I purchased the Eucharist study through Amazon.

It looks like it has some pretty solid content to it. The publisher has collected positive blurbs on the TBS series from prominent bishops and theologians, including such figures as Archbishop Chaput of Denver, Cardinal George of Chicago, and Dr. Scott Hahn of Steubenville. The Eucharist study is divided into 30 lessons. For group study, the text recommends six sessions, one for the introduction and then six lessons per session. The parish and deanery plan to follow the Why Catholic model with six fall sessions and six spring sessions.

It will be interesting to see whether the TBS program has as much participation as the Why Catholic program did. My inclination is to believe that Why Catholic, which was billed as a journey through the Catechism, appealed to people who were hungry for doctrinal content and wanted to know what official Church teaching was. I don’t think that the Bible study format will have as wide an appeal. I hope that I’m wrong – it surely wouldn’t be the first time. In the meanwhile, I’ll be following along from home.

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