ROCHESTER — Father Brian Carpenter, parochial vicar at Peace of Christ Parish, planned his six-session course on the U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults based on two assumptions. The first was that adults of all ages hungered to learn more about their faith, and the second was that Lent was the perfect time for them to do so.
Both assumptions proved correct, as more than a dozen adults pledged to give up one free night a week during Lent in favor of studying the Catholic faith with Father Carpenter, who became the Diocese of Rochester’s most recently ordained priest on June 6, 2009.
The idea for the Lenten series was born several months ago at a meeting for Peace of Christ’s new young-adult ministry. Several young adults, including Maryann Oddo and Julie Antinore, told Father Carpenter they wished they knew of more opportunities for adult faith-formation, and expressed a desire to learn more about the Catholic Church’s teachings.
"We love our faith, but sometimes we don’t always understand it. What are we really in love with? And we learn more about it and just grow more and more in love with it," Oddo told the Catholic Courier.
At that young-adult meeting, Oddo also brought up the topic of the catechism, and said she didn’t really understand it. She wasn’t the only one.
"Growing up it wasn’t something that was placed on the kitchen table," she explained.
Father Carpenter listened to the young adults’ concerns, but he sensed they weren’t alone in wanting more information about their faith and about the catechism. He decided to plan a lecture and discussion series about the catechism that would be open to people of all ages and to people of all parishes. After talking with Peace of Christ’s catechetical leader, Patricia Lawlor, he decided to hold this series during Lent.
"A lot of people like to do something during Lent. It’s a time when people tend to want to do something more spiritual," he said. "Ideally you could do this over a whole year, but I figured for Lent people will commit to six weeks. At the end of this people might decide they want to do something else."
Eighteen adults came to the first session, which was held Feb. 18 at Irondequoit’s St. James Church. One of Peace of Christ’s three worship sites, St. James will host each of the remaining sessions as well. Many of the participants bought the U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults in preparation for the series, and others brought their own copies of that book or the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Both books contain the Catholic Church’s official teachings, Father Carpenter said. The Catechism of the Catholic Church contains "the official Roman documents," he noted.
"It reads more like a reference book. It reads like a document that’s giving you instructions point by point," Father Carpenter said.
This book is intended to help national and local churches draft their own catechetical materials, such as the U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults, Father Carpenter said. This book was put together by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which took the information from the Roman documents and put it into a more user-friendly format, he said. This book contains reflections and discussion questions and addresses such current concerns as youths and increased secularization.
"It’s really written as a book you can take, you can read it at night, you can bring it into prayer. This one here is just an easier read for somebody who wants that introduction," he said.
Father Carpenter discussed such topics as the human longing for God, ways humans come to know God and the magisterium during the Feb. 18 session. He planned to discuss the seven sacraments Feb. 25 and March 4, Catholic morality on March 11 and 18, and prayer on March 25. All of the sessions start at 7 p.m. and are free and open to anyone interested, whether or not they have a copy of the catechism, Father Carpenter said.
Andrew Gill, a member of Rochester’s Our Lady of Victory Parish, came to the first session armed with his own copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Gill said he was glad for the opportunity to learn more about the catechism.
"I had actually been looking for something exactly like this for quite some time," he said.
Maria Grego said she is a cradle Catholic but recently realized she’d never learned about the catechism, even though she’d graduated from Catholic elementary and high schools. She said she hoped learning more about Catholicism would help her deepen and cement her faith.
Gill said he was especially interested in the series when he learned Father Carpenter would be leading the discussions.
"I’ve seen Father Carpenter around and I’m really impressed by everything I see him saying," Gill said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information about this Lenten series, contact Peace of Christ Parish at 585-288-5000.