GATES — Dozens of curious people with questions about Catholicism took advantage of the Diocese of Rochester’s “Catholic Call-In,” which was held from 2 to 8 p.m. May 19 as part of the Spirit Alive! diocesan spiritual renewal.
Pastoral ministers took turns manning the bank of 11 phones that had been set up in the Bishop Hickey Conference Center at the diocesan Pastoral Center.
“As soon as 2 hit all the phones kept ringing,” Shannon Loughlin, director of young-adult and campus ministry in the diocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis, told the Catholic Courier that afternoon. “It’s been pretty consistent.”
The phones kept ringing throughout the remainder of the call-in as well, Sister Mary Louise Heffernan, consultant for spirituality in the diocesan Office of Parish Support Ministries, told the Catholic Courier May 20. There was a slight lull between 4 and 6 p.m., but then the calls came in steadily for the rest of the evening, the Sister of St. Joseph noted.
The pastoral ministers fielded more than 80 questions from Catholics and non-Catholics alike about such topics as church doctrine, mortal sin, heaven, hell and the Sunday obligation to attend Mass, which is a Catholic’s Sunday obligation, she said. The most frequently asked questions were about marriage, divorce and annulments, which were often forwarded to diocesan Tribunal director Emmett Wells, who was on hand for just that reason.
“That’s one of the biggest questions that comes up,” he said during the call-in.
Some callers had questions about Catholic curiosities, such as why the pope often wears red shoes, Maribeth Mancini, director of Evangelization and Catechesis, said during the event. Barbara Hesenius, pastoral associate at St. John of Rochester Church in Fairport, fielded that question, as well as a question from a woman who called wondering whether it was possible or dangerous to love pets too much.
“I just kind of said, ‘Put it into perspective,'” Hesenius said. “The creator is to be loved first, the creature second. Actually it’s God, then people and then pets. We adore God, (but) we love our pets.”
The pastoral ministers had at their fingertips copies of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Revised Code of Canon Law and the Bible, as well as books about liturgical rites and information about other topics such as stem cells. There also was a laptop computer available for quick Internet research. These volunteers were armed with experience as well as information, Sister Heffernan observed.
“The people that are here are all pastoral people that probably have frequently been with someone that has these questions,” she said May 19.
Some questions were not answered immediately, but instead were forwarded to experts in the appropriate diocesan departments. Several such question Hesenius received were about the local black Catholic community.
“We had some questions about … ways to have more resources and services devoted to the black community. Can there be more things that the diocese offers for the black community for revival?” Hesenius said.
Those questions were forwarded to the diocesan Office of Black Ministry, she added.
“If it’s more of a long-term issue, we refer them to somebody. If it’s a sort of spiritual jeopardy (question), we’ll try our best (to answer it),” Hesenius said.
Mancini, cochair of the spiritual renewal, said the call-in was intended to give people a comfortable way to satisfy their curiosity about Catholicism and church doctrine.
“I think the goal was just accessibility, the opportunity for people to have a place to ask their questions,” she said.
“Hopefully it’s a comfortable way to do it. They’re making a phone call. It’s not person-to-person,” Sister Heffernan said May 20. “After they take that first step, maybe they’ll be willing to move to talking to someone (in person).”