Participants take part in a Discovering Christ session at St. Luke’s parish in Maple Ridge, B.C. Photo courtesy of the B.C. Catholic

Lapsed Catholics invited to take another look

By  Pat Byrne Casey, Canadian Catholic News
  • January 31, 2012

MAPLE RIDGE, B.C. - St. Luke’s parish in Maple Ridge recently invited 8,200 people, give or take a few thousand, to dinner.

That number, says a media release from their office, represents the one-fifth of the local population who are lapsed Catholics.

“Those of us who live our faith take great comfort in it,” said Vernon Robertson, a parishioner and the organizer of the event, a “full meal deal” entitled Discovering Christ.

St. Luke’s was the first parish in Canada to offer the program.

“This process reaches out to people who are experiencing a lack of peace and purpose in their lives, whether they are Catholics who have drifted away or people who have never really been part of any faith community.”

A positive RSVP from 87 people was enough to pack the parish hall for seven Monday evenings and one half-day Saturday.

“Our participants ranged from people in their 30s to two in their 90s,” said Robertson, “and most completed all seven weeks. Everyone who filled out an evaluation reported it to be a positive experience.”

Each week the group enjoyed a meal prepared by parish volunteers and then watched a short video with basic information about Christianity and Catholicism. Discussions at each dinner table followed.

The discussion played a crucial part in the evening, said Robertson, answering a need expressed by young adults who are increasingly turning away from organized religion because they say they don’t feel comfortable expressing doubts.

“We didn’t invite people so we could tell them what to think,” said Robertson. “We wanted to hear what they think, how they feel, about Jesus Christ and Christianity.”

Participants seemed to agree with Robertson, almost unanimously reporting the discussion time to be the most satisfying part of the evening and suggesting that it be prolonged in future sessions.

Discovering Christ videos and content were developed over 15 years by ChristLife, a lay Catholic ministry in the archdiocese of Baltimore. A response to the Church’s call for a new evangelization, it is designed to help Catholics understand evangelization and to equip them, working within their parishes, to take part in a task the Church calls essential.

The course is similar in format to the Alpha Course which originated in the late 1970s in London, England, and has since spread to offer more than 55,000 courses in 166 countries through all major Christian denominations, including Catholic.

While originally designed for lapsed Catholics, Discovering Christ welcomes anyone interested in Christianity, said Robertson.

(The B.C. Catholic)

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