Local Parishes

Bible study group fosters faith, changes lives

LEAVEN PHOTO BY SHEILA MYERS Participants in Holy Trinity Parish’s women’s Bible study program convene in a large group for the last half hour to hear a presentation on the reading for the week. Above, Laura Haeusser discusses the prologue in the Gospel of John.

LEAVEN PHOTO BY SHEILA MYERS Participants in Holy Trinity Parish’s women’s Bible study program convene in a large group for the last half hour to hear a presentation on the reading for the week. Above, Laura Haeusser discusses the prologue in the Gospel of John.

Bible study at Holy Trinity lets women brush up on Scripture

By Sheila Myers
Special to The Leaven

LENEXA — The second floor of the Father Quigley Faith Formation Center at Holy Trinity here was abuzz Sept. 13 as the Catholic Women’s Bible Study group kicked off its 10th year.

The 140 women are all ages and in all stages of life, but they have one thing in common:  a desire to study Scripture in the Catholic tradition.

“I love it,” said Marilyn Mischlich, a retired nurse and grandmother. “I like the format, how they study the Bible — the in-depth approach.”

The parishioner of Holy Cross in Overland Park proceeded to pay the $70 registration fee and collected her Catholic Scripture Study guide from helper Diane Schwartz. It’s Marilyn’s third year in the group.

As 9:30 a.m. approached, the women disappeared into the various nooks and crannies of the center for an hour of small-group discussion. At 10:30 a.m., the small groups disbanded, and the women gathered to hear a speaker or watch a video about that week’s lesson.

The program is a blessing for home -schooling mom Melissa Hardesty, a parishioner of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Kansas City, Mo. Hardesty has five boys, ages 2 to 7. She leaves her three older boys in the atrium where they will participate in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, along with other children, ages 3 to 12.

Hardesty brings her two-year-old twins to class with her, joining other “stroller moms.”

“[The program] helps so much with being a mother,” she said.

The program is the brainchild of sisters Laura Haeusser (Holy Cross) and Kathryn Burditt (Holy Trinity).

The St. Charles, Mo., natives launched the group in 2002 with the help of many friends.

“We said we need to have a place where women who don’t know their faith could reinforce it,” said Haeusser.

They use approved materials — mainly the Catholic Scripture Study and Great Adventure series — and offer the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd to the school-age children attending with their moms.

The women’s group covers only one or two books a session. This year, they’re studying the Gospel of John. It’s the second time visiting John, but it will be different this time around, Burditt said.

“We’re at a different point in our lives,” she said.

Though the “Weber girls” (their maiden name) grew up in a Catholic home, they came to their interest in Scripture later in life.
“Actually, we got involved in Bible study before our parents did,” said Burditt.

But it has been their faith that has sustained the sisters through many challenging times, and they want other women to know the kind of strength that comes with a deep faith.

“It teaches you how to look for grace in the midst of struggle,” said Haeusser. “Everybody has a cross.”

Haeusser, the mother of seven, knows firsthand about crosses. In 1995, her husband was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He passed away in late 2011.

Women learn about the Bible study group through parish bulletins or friends. After 10 years, the group’s tentacles reach throughout the metro area. Women have come from Basehor, Lawrence, South Kansas City. One woman drove from Leavenworth for three years to teach. This year, 20 parishes are represented.

The program functions like a well-oiled machine thanks to the help of 40 women who volunteer as nursery leaders, discussion leaders and catechesis leaders.  Some pitch in wherever they’re needed.

Ellen Balke Jones, a Holy Cross parishioner, is one of the floaters. Since joining the Bible study 10 years ago, she said her faith and her children’s faith have grown exponentially.

“It has fostered a lot in my kids, a lot of which I don’t think I could have done without this environment,” she said. “They understand their faith better.”

Balke Jones works full time as a nurse, but arranges her schedule so she can attend the program. She credits Haeusser’s and Burditt’s vision and dedication for the success of the program.

Haeusser is the visionary and leads with her heart. She won’t let a member miss more than two weeks without calling to find out what’s going on in her life and offering to help.

Burditt, the mother of five, is the pragmatist and leads with her head. She admits she’s had to learn to trust in God instead of worrying about details.

“Laura is always like, ‘It’ll be fine,’” said Burditt. “And I ask where we’re going to get all these volunteers to help. Who’s going to do all this?

“And people just show up.”

The sisters love hearing how the group has changed lives.

“People have been putting the word into action,” Burditt said. “We’re not just hearing it. We’re living it.”

For those interested in starting a Catholic Bible study group, “Just begin,” is the advice of the “Weber girls.”

The Holy Spirit will take it from there.

About the author

Anita McSorley

Anita, managing editor of The Leaven, has over 30 years’ experience in book, magazine and newspaper editing, including stints as the assistant editor of the “Diplomatic Papers of Daniel Webster” at Dartmouth College and then in the public relations departments of Texaco, Inc., and the Rockefeller Group in New York. Anita made the move to newspaper editing when she came to The Leaven in 1988, where she has been ever since. Anita is a member of St. Patrick Parish in Kansas City, Kan., and in her spare time, she enjoys giving her long-suffering husband, her children and her staff good advice that they never take.

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