Good reads inspire women to discuss, share their faith

Jennifer Burke/Catholic Courier    |    07.27.2017
Category: Finger Lakes

Each Wednesday evening a handful of women from Catholic Community of the Blessed Trinity gather at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Wolcott to discuss the book they’re currently reading.

That sounds like the description of a typical book club, right?

Not so fast, according to the women who attend the meetings of Blessed Trinity’s book group.

First of all, this group is not a club, according to Susie Gallo, who cofounded the group nearly three years ago with fellow parishioner Kathy DeMass.

“We don’t call it a book club because that sounds exclusive,” Gallo explained. “We call it a book group, that way anybody who wants to join us can come any time.”

Blessed Trinity’s book group is unique because it doesn’t require any “homework,” added fellow group member Jill Lee. Rather than reading the books on their own time and discussing them at group meetings, the women in the book group take turns reading aloud during weekly meetings.

“It takes a little bit of pressure off if you’re super busy. You don’t have to think, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve got to sit down and read this before book group tonight,’” noted fellow group member Marie Smith.

One woman will read a portion of the book aloud, and then the women will discuss what they’ve just heard before another woman resumes reading aloud. Listening to the words being spoken is a different experience than reading them on the page, according to the women in the book group.

“It sometimes soaks in a little easier,” Lee said.

“I think it gives you a different perspective,” added fellow member Pam AuClair.

Conversations naturally flow from these readings because the subject material is fresh in everyone’s minds and the women are able to immediately ask questions and share their own reflections on or interpretations of the book.

“It’s like what comes out is what is truly on your heart and mind,” Smith said.

At the first meeting, Gallo and DeMass had specific questions planned for specific parts of the book, but they abandoned that more structured format after the second meeting. “Going with the flow” seems to be a better way of inspiring meaningful conversation and faith sharing, Gallo said.

“Sometimes we’ll read a whole chapter and we won’t even say anything, and other times we’ll read a paragraph and someone will have a comment, and I like that,” AuClair added. “Sometimes … someone will say something and I’ll think, ‘Wow, I didn’t think about it that way, but now I see it that way.’ That’s been helpful.”

The women in the group spent much of June and July reading Resisting Happiness, which is one of several books they’ve read by Catholic author Matthew Kelly. As they near the end of one book, the group members vote on suggestions of what book to read next. So far they’ve read books about spiritual growth, the Catholic Church and biographies of various saints, as well as books by Pope Francis.

“We have a variety of books that we have read and it’s just brought us closer to God,” Gallo said.

“They are definitely books that help our faith to grow and eventually lead us to action. It’s important to act on the stuff that we’re learning,” Lee remarked.

Since joining the group, several of its members have become more active in Blessed Trinity as lectors and extraordinary ministers of holy Communion. And each December the group carries out some type of service project. Last year, for example, the members made wooden rosaries and donated them to hospice patients, Gallo said.

Each book-group meeting begins and ends with prayer, and the members occasionally take “field trips” to experience Mass and the sacrament of reconciliation in other Catholic churches in the region.

“We’re trying to increase our spirituality,” AuClair explained.

The members of the book group share what they learn with the rest of the parish through book reports published in the parish bulletin at the request of Blessed Trinity’s pastor, Father Michael Upson. Each time the group finishes reading a book, a different member writes a brief report explaining what the book was about, why the members chose to read it and what they thought about it.

Gallo said she’s hopeful these book reports may inspire others to join the book group.

“It’s just a very nice group of women who can pray together and read together and share our faith and our hopes and dreams,” Smith added.

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