Column: Wea parishioners learn their lessons

Father Mark Goldasich is the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tonganoxie. he has been editor of the Leaven since 1989.
Father Mark Goldasich is the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tonganoxie. he has been editor of the Leaven since 1989.

by Father Mark Goldasich

“Whoa, he must have caught you at a weak moment!”

Those were the first words from Leaven managing editor Anita McSorley after I told her my plans for this past Sunday morning. Instead of presiding at Masses in Tonganoxie, I was heading to Queen of the Holy Rosary in Wea to give a talk.

The “he” that Anita alluded to was Wea pastor, Father Larry Albertson; the “weak moment” referred to the fact that, due to increasing responsibilities at the parish, I’ve given hardly any presentations the past several years. To be honest, Father Larry didn’t catch me at a weak moment. What he asked me to do has a special place in my heart: Encourage adults to learn more about their Catholic faith. I couldn’t say no, especially on Catechetical Sunday!

I arrived in Wea to both a warm welcome and a sense of nervousness. Because this was the first session of an entirely new program at the church, organizers had no idea what the response would be. Several times I was gently reminded to not feel crushed if only a few people showed up.

The presentation was in the school gym, where about 10 tables were set up with some six chairs at each. As the time grew closer for things to start, a few people trickled in. As the minutes ticked by, more and more people poured in. Soon all of the tables were occupied, and more chairs and more tables were brought out. When even those places were filled, a few people spilled into the bleachers. I caught a glimpse of those who had spearheaded this effort. They were beaming. What they suspected was true: Adults at the parish were indeed eager for continuing education.

It’s no secret that I like stories and see them as great teaching tools. Here’s one that I told that morning:

In the old days, ponies and mules were used to haul the coal around down in the mines. One day a man asked a little boy in the mining camp why there were so many ponies and mules out in the fields on Sunday.

The little boy answered, “They work all week down in the mines. We bring them up on Sundays so they won’t go blind.” (Found in “Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations & Quotes” by Robert J. Morgan.)

In our society today, people are constantly on the go. In some sense, it’s like working in the mines. The only difference is that at least the ponies and mules got out on Sunday! They got a break from their labor and were able to come up into the light.

If we’re constantly working or running from place to place and don’t even take a break even on Sunday, we are risking our spiritual sight. And, while it’s essential to attend Mass on the weekend, the teaching done there can’t hope to capture all the richness of our faith. That’s why something like the adult ed series at Wea is so important.

The topics they will cover were culled from a survey the parishioners filled out. The sessions are free, last a little over an hour and include refreshments. Live speakers (or a DVD when that’s not possible) will address each topic, followed by a time for questions. Each session will also have a list of resources for those who wish to delve further into a subject.

What I especially like is that the program is on Sunday morning and takes place at the same time as the parish’s religious ed classes for children. It’s important for kids to see that, as they are dropped off for class, their parents are heading into the gym for their “class.” This sends the message that we never know everything about our faith; there are always new things about it to explore and discover.

Following Wea’s example, challenge yourself each Sunday to carve out some time, even if it’s only 15 minutes at first, to grow in your knowledge of the faith. A good place to begin is by asking: What aspect of Catholicism do I want to know more about — the Scriptures, prayer, the saints, social teaching, church structure? Then ask your pastor or adult education director (or even send me an e-mail at frmark@ theleaven.com) about some resources to get you started. It really is as simple as that.

And who knows? One day you may be inspired as the folks at Holy Rosary to start a more formal adult education group. Just have plenty of tables and chairs ready!

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