Fr. Frank Kuczera
Some people recognize God's footsteps on their journey through life, while others struggle to ever be on familiar terms with Jesus.
More than a year ago, at a parish council meeting in Edmonton's St. Charles Parish, parishioners acknowledged this situation and decided to reach out to people alienated or distant from the Church.
In response, the parish initiated a program called Sharing the Journey. The new program aims to reach out to fallen-away Catholics and bring them back to Christ. The program is also for practising Catholics who want to deepen their relationship with Christ.
"The people already sitting in the pews were into this idea right from the get-go, from the time we announced it," said Oblate Father Frank Kuczera, pastor at St. Charles.
"They had some homework to do, to look around in their own families and community, to find those who aren't in the church but would like to be. They had to go out and personally invite them."
Kuczera challenged parishioners to go beyond participation in the weekly Eucharist and to bring in those who are not at Sunday Mass. "How do we go about becoming a community that washes their feet?" he asked.
A church committee sought appropriate methods of evangelization and discovered that most materials available are geared to practising Catholics, with little oriented to those who do not attend Mass.
Since this is a unique program, with no distinct blueprint to follow, parishioners prayed for God's assistance, knowing the program would only succeed with Christ working through them.
Eventually, they found a thought-provoking, down-to-earth DVD series made specifically with the lapsed Catholic in mind. They also arranged for people in their parish to speak on faith-related subjects.
"We wanted to select people who are known to the community, but also people who have touched us for whatever reason," said Kuczera.
Five afternoon sessions will kick off Sharing the Journey. The two-hour sessions will include prayer, music, lunch and group discussion. Images of God was the topic for the inaugural session held Jan. 20 and featured a talk by parishioner Rene Desilva.
Kimberly Druien said she was invited by a friend to Sharing the Journey, and is glad she attended.
"God is present in some people's lives, and it's obvious when you see how they go about their day, and how they carry themselves. I've never had that same clear image of who God is, but I'm still trying, still searching," said Druien.
Pleased with the first session, she intends to attend the next four as well. The next session is God's Presence When Life Hurts, set for Feb. 3.
"I can be spiritual without going to church on Sunday. But just being around other people with the same beliefs adds to the experience," said Druien. "Socializing with others, and talking about God informally, those are the things that can help deepen our faith."
The next speaker is a parishioner who went through RCIA last year. He is a young man, confined to a wheelchair and dying of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
"We wanted someone who would share a story with us that would touch us. That's exactly what it is because we see that he's hurting and God is present in his life. He's young and he's got a beautiful family, but he's not going to live long," said Kuczera.
Other upcoming sessions include Being Busy (Feb. 17), The Gift of Forgiveness (March 3), and Living in the Present Moment (March 17).
The program will be reevaluated following the five Sunday sessions to determine whether to continue it.