David and Nancy Wilson were part of a Catholic book study group formed during the pandemic. Photo courtesy the Wilsons

Book study group cherishes fellowship

By  Peter Wilson, Youth Speak News
  • June 30, 2021

Making the best of a bad situation has been a common refrain for the past 15 COVID-stricken months, and a nationwide Catholic book study group took this maxim to heart. 

At the start of Lent 2021, Fr. Eric Mason, parish priest at St. Joseph Church in Powassan, Ont.,  — about a three-hour drive north of Toronto — utilized Zoom to gather a diverse group of Catholics from across Canada to study Live Not By Lies, by New York Times bestselling author Rod Dreher. After independently reading a portion of the book every week, the group met for one hour every Friday to share insights. 

Mason described the text as “a look at the experience of Christians living under socialism and communism in Eastern Europe and Russia and how they managed to keep the faith, pass it on to their children and even evangelize others in a totalitarian environment.” 

“It’s not only an interesting read,” said Mason, “but it also makes you think about how you can live your life more authentically as a Christian.” 

For Steve and Kristan Johnson, who joined the group from the Muskoka region north of Toronto, the group discussions provided community.

“We got to hear the opinions and the experiences of others, serving to reaffirm our own thinking,” Steve said. “(The study group) helped us feel less isolated and alone, as we often tend to feel these days. There were many like-minded Catholics, each with their own lens to bear on what’s happening in the world at present.”

The need for strong Catholic fellowship was also evident to participants Nancy and David Wilson from Elmvale, Ont.

“At the end of the book study, most of us were reluctant to let go of this little piece of Catholic community that had been forged,” said Nancy. “What we realized, however, was that we needed to make an effort to develop an in-person, local group of Catholics to support each other. With regular church attendance severely altered over the past year and a half, many are keenly feeling the loss of their Catholic communities. It’s important to gather a group together to fight against isolation, reach out to others and strengthen our Catholic beliefs.”

The group also had a surprisingly extensive reach, with members from several different provinces across Canada.

“We started out with a smaller group that grew,” said Mason. “Eventually, it ended up involving people from all across the country.”

Kristan added, “It was an amazing way to get a cross-section of Canadians from coast-to-coast; truly, from the Maritimes to B.C.”

Nancy considered this diversity to be a key strength.

“There were priests, teachers, medical professionals, businessmen and women, homemakers, homeschool teachers, university students and business owners,” she said. “The wide range of backgrounds — as well as personalities — made for some lively, enlightening and enjoyable conversations.”

“I must say,” said Mason, “I’ve done a number of book studies with different groups, and this was the one where the discussion flowed most freely. We would only meet for about an hour every Friday evening, but,” he added with a chuckle, “we would always have to cut our discussion short because it could’ve gone on for several hours.”

Speaking to the practicality of the study group, Kristan said “it only required a bit of reading each week and a commitment of an hour shared with lots of well-informed and interesting people. And it didn’t require any travelling.” 

And the group is not gone for good. Mason will be facilitating another book study starting in September that will focus on Dr. John Senior’s Rebuilding Christian Culture. For information, e-mail Mason at frericmason@peterboroughdiocese.org.

(Wilson, 20, is pursuing a Bachelor of Catholic Studies degree at Seat of Wisdom College in Barry’s Bay, Ont.)

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