‘Catholicism’ series takes teens, adults deeper into their faith
by Jessica Langdon
SABETHA — Father Greg Hammes, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish here, looked forward to the release of “Catholicism.”
In fact, Father Robert Barron of the Archdiocese of Chicago, who created the international, multimedia “Catholicism” series, was one of his teachers in the seminary.
Still, Father Hammes wasn’t the first to bring this new, visual exploration of the church to the parish.
Dr. Kerry Glynn, who teaches 12th-grade religious education at Sacred Heart, came across the new DVD series and thought it just might work for the high school seniors.
The class has started delving into it — and teens and adults alike seem impressed.
“I was excited to see it here,” said Father Hammes.
He has also started incorporating the DVDs into his sessions for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults group.
Around the world
The high school students have already watched episodes on subjects ranging from the Incarnation to the role of Mary.
“I have enjoyed the knowledge that I have gained from the DVDs,” said Sacred Heart parishioner Justin Compo.
Glynn and Dennis Funk teach the 12th-grade class together. The group includes teens from the Sabetha church and St. Augustine Parish in nearby Fidelity.
Glynn discovered the works of Father Barron, who shares homilies and other articles via the “Word on Fire” website.
That’s where the DVD series sparked her interest. The timing was perfect; she and Funk were in the process of building the curriculum for the senior religious education class and this had a lot to offer.
“I have enjoyed learning that there are millions of Catholics all around the world,” said Garrett Renyer, a member of St. Augustine.
The series takes viewers to more than 50 sites in 15 countries. From Mexico to New York City to Italy to Israel to Uganda, it demonstrates that all around the world, the faith is alive.
Glynn enjoys showing the students that even out in rural Kansas, they are an essential part of the universal Catholic Church.
A journey with Jesus
The DVDs have sparked discussions and some new ideas about the church for the teens.
“They have strengthened my faith, increased my knowledge of Catholicism and brought me to a closer relationship with God,” said Emily Winkler, a member of St. Augustine. “They describe the stories of the Bible in more detail and from a new perspective than I have seen before.”
The people behind the series say the DVDs reach out to high school and college students, RCIA classes, members of the diaconate, and really any adult who wants to learn more about the faith.
“Not a video lecture, Church history or Scripture study, this engaging and interesting formational program uses art, architecture, literature, music and all the treasures of the Catholic tradition to illuminate the timeless teachings of the church,” explains www.catholicism series.com, the website where DVDs and other materials may be purchased.
“I have enjoyed learning about Jesus in a historical view,” Sacred Heart parishioner Kyle Stallbaumer said. “I’m interested in the journey of Jesus and the reasoning behind it; these videos do a wonderful job of showing that.”
“I have enjoyed learning more about our religion and more about what Christ did through his teachings,” said St. Augustine parishioner Kayla Renyer.
Funk didn’t know what to expect before they started watching it, and the series has impressed him.
The quality comes through in everything from the sound to the visuals. Funk sees that Father Barron is passionate and knows the subject, but doesn’t come across as if he’s merely reading notes.
“It’s very relaxed and natural,” Funk said.
“It explains Catholicism in a way I can understand,” said St. Augustine parishioner Heather Jurgensmeier.
“I have enjoyed learning more about Mary and look forward to viewing the rest of the ‘Catholicism’ DVD series,” said Sacred Heart parishioner Chelsea Wenger.
True to the faith
Father Hammes likes Father Barron’s “Word on Fire” site and has been impressed with what he has seen of the series.
It stays true to the faith. Many times, Father Hammes finds much of what he sees on television about Catholicism disappointing.
“It’s very worldly,” he said, explaining that many programs combine perspectives of faith with skeptical viewpoints.
This project is different, though.
“Like Father Barron says, it’s produced by Catholics for Catholics,” said Father Hammes. “It’s very straightforward and bold in its faith, and it doesn’t apologize.”
Matt Karr, archdiocesan consultant for evangelization and Catholic formation of adults, has seen a lot of interest in the “Catholicism” DVDs.
“The series is just super well done — high-definition quality, really good background into what it means to be Catholic,” said Karr. “It gives a really good view of how large the Catholic Church is and how historically important it’s been.”
To him, it is a good introductory study, as well as a new look at Catholicism for people who have been Catholic for a long time. It shows them a lot about the church they are part of.
“Growing up Catholic, I’ve always had questions about certain teachings of the church” said Sacred Heart parishioner Kayla Herl. “The ‘Catholicism’ DVD series has blessed me with a better understanding of my faith by answering some of my questions.”
“Catholicism is a smart religion, and we consciously stress this aspect of the faith in the program,” the series’ website quotes Father Barron.
Other parishes have also been using the “Catholicism” series. Church of the Ascension in Overland Park is offering several sessions each week to give parishioners a chance to see each of the 10 episodes.
At Sacred Heart in Sabetha, Glynn hopes it will have a strong impact and stay a part of the curriculum for years to come.
“The series has not only opened a new spectrum in my Catholic faith, but has given me a better understanding of Jesus and what ‘following’ him really looks like,” said Sacred Heart parishioner Tate Steinlage.