'Spirit Alive!' event answers big, small questions about Catholicism - Catholic Courier

‘Spirit Alive!’ event answers big, small questions about Catholicism

Out of the dozen volunteers answering eight phone lines during the May 12 Catholic Call-In, Tribunal Director Emmett Wells was certainly the busiest.

Wells fielded many calls about irregular marriages, annulments and divorces, which made up the bulk of the questions received during the call-in, a one-day event aimed at answering questions big and small that individuals have about the Catholic faith. The event was held as part of the three-year diocesan “Spirit Alive!” spiritual renewal.

“One of the questions was they wanted to know, if dating divorced people, when in a relationship can they bring up the subject of an annulment,” Wells said. “That’s kind of a subjective question.”

Although marriage and annulment questions dominated, the 46 calls fielded during the event also included queries about liturgy, sacraments, blessings, social justice and sin, said Sister Mary Louise Heffernan, a member of the renewal planning committee who also is a spirituality consultant for the diocese.

Sister Heffernan said several callers asked about differences in practices from parish to parish.

“Some questions were, ‘Why don’t we all do the same thing?'” she said. “Why doesn’t every parish do it the same way?”

Sister Heffernan explained that there are pastoral concerns that need to be met from parish to parish, and that the diversity of the diocese is reflected in its celebrations.

“Cultures do impact our practice,” she said.

Jonathan Schott, diocesan coordinator of adult, catechists and family formation, said he spoke to one caller who was struggling with reconciling the images of God’s wrath and vengeance in the Old Testament with Christ’s benevolence and mercy in the New Testament. Schott said he answered the caller by discussing, among other things, the importance of living according to Christ’s teaching and the role of the sacrament of reconciliation.

Father Alex Bradshaw, pastor of Our Mother of Sorrows Church in Greece, said he fielded several questions about marriages, including the process for a widow and widower to remarry, and how to proceed if a person in a relationship does not want to seek an annulment.

“All the questions have been very understandable questions from people who want to get on with their lives, and what I say to them is we are all here to help you,” Father Bradshaw said.

Father Ed Palumbos, pastor of Church of the Assumption in Fairport, said the questions he answered included one from a caller who wanted a recommendation for a large-print Bible, and a half-hour-long conversation with a person who is marrying a Catholic and who wanted details about the process to become Catholic.

“He likes what he sees, and he’s feeling hopeful about where God might be calling him,” Father Palumbos said.

Sister Heffernan noted that the call-in played an important role in reaching out to those who may have spent time away from the church and providing those who aren’t active in a parish with a point of contact to answer their questions.

“I think it is a very nonthreatening way for people to present a question or their concern, and they don’t have to worry about anybody knowing who they are or anything about them,” Sister Heffernan said.

She said the call-in volunteers took their jobs very seriously and responded to the questions in a very open and caring manner.

“Hopefully that gives encouragement to those who call, and certainly that is a part of evangelization — that hospitality and healing,” she said.

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