CHILI — “What do you do if your significant other doesn’t believe in God because he is a factual person, and the existence of God hasn’t been proven?”
With that question in mind, Father Lee Chase again took his place on the hot seat March 15 at Leaf and Bean Coffee Co.
Father Chase, pastor of St. Thomas More Parish in Brighton, was at the coffee house for the second installment of Priest on a Hot Seat, a new, three-part series cosponsored by the Diocese of Rochester and the 5 Saints West Planning Group. Priest on a Hot Seat is a part of the larger Holy Grounds Coffee and Catholic Conversation Series.
During his talk, the priest explained that people believe in God because their experiences have proven to them that he exists.
“We experience anything through our senses; through our five exterior senses but also the three interior senses — reason, imagination and intuition,” Father Chase said.
It would be foolish for him to contradict someone who said they enjoyed their vacation if he hadn’t experienced the vacation, Father Chase said. Similarly, if someone told him about a time they’d experienced God, “I really can’t say to him, ‘no, you didn’t,’ because I didn’t have his experience,” he said.
The series is similar in format to the Theology on Tap series, which is also cosponsored by the diocese and various parish groups, said Shannon Loughlin, diocesan director of young-adult and campus ministry. During Theology on Tap discussions, which are held in pubs and taverns throughout the diocese, young adults ask priests and other adults affiliated with the diocese questions about issues related to Catholicism.
“Some people are more comfortable with the coffee house environment, and some people are more comfortable with the tavern environment,” Loughlin said.
The March 15 discussion attracted a dozen participants, who were invited to ask Father Chase any questions they had related to the evening’s topic — ecumenical or interfaith relationships.
“He is very good at the interaction with people and fielding questions and being able to respond in a way that is confident and engaging,” Loughlin said of Father Chase.
Events like this need to be available to young adults in their 20s and 30s if the church hopes to retain them, said Patricia Borkowski, youth minister at St. Christopher’s Parish in North Chili, which is part of the 5 Saints West Planning Group. Borkowski and representatives from the other parishes in the planning group met several months ago to come up with a list of topics young people would find relevant and interesting.
St. Christopher’s parishioner Matt Beiter, 20, likened events such as Priest on a Hot Seat and Theology on Tap to extracurricular clubs and activities at school. Going to school and Mass forms the core of education and religion, but in both cases, the extracurricular activities serve to deepen and enrich the experience, he said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The third and final installment of the Priest on a Hot Seat series will be held at 7 p.m. April 19 at the Leaf and Bean Coffee Co., which is located in Chili Paul Plaza, 3240 Chili Ave., Chili. Father Lee Chase will answer questions about how to deal with anti-Catholic sentiments.