By Anne Marie Amacher
More than 700 people throughout the Diocese of Davenport are signed up to learn about prayer through the Why Catholic? adult faith formation program.
Mary Wieser, the diocesan director of faith formation and education, said this is the fourth year the diocese has offered Why Catholic?, a Scripture-based program of RENEW International.
Sister Kathleen “Kass” Collins, SFCC, assistant director for RENEW, recently presented workshops for leader training for this year’s sessions, most of which begin this month. They finish by Advent and resume again during Lent.
Small faith groups will meet throughout the diocese to discuss “Christian Prayer: Deepening My Experience of God,” the Why Catholic? series being used this year in the diocese. “We even have a group at the chancery, too. I am very pleased,” Wieser said.
Sessions typically are 90 minutes long, but vary in setting. Some meet in parishes; one group meets for dinner first; some groups meet in homes. “One group is meeting at a nursing home because one of their members recently became a resident,” she said.
Session one, What is Prayer?, focuses on defining prayer; session two, Prayer in the Old Testament, highlights prayers of Abraham, Moses, Hannah, Elijah and the Book of Psalms. It also covers contemplative and intercessory prayer. Session three, Jesus and Mary Teach us to Pray, looks at the New Testament and how Mary teaches Jesus to pray and how he teaches us to pray, Wieser said. Session four, Forms of Prayer, explores prayers of blessing and adoration, petition, intercession, thanksgiving and praise. Another aspect of that session addresses how we need to bless others in the name of God.
“Do we as parents bless our children at night? Do we bless our child the first time he or she gets behind the wheel to drive?” This session covers how to bless others and “maybe we can start new family traditions,” Wieser said. She added that the rite of baptism has many wonderful blessings within it.
In session five, The Sources and Way of Prayer, participants will learn how to pray in different styles. Centering Prayer will be introduced. “That form may not be for everyone, but they can learn about this particular form of prayer,” she said.
Session six, Guides for Prayer, highlights various traditions of spirituality in the church related to when and where people pray. After a break, another six sessions will focus on the building blocks of prayer: vocal prayer and meditation, contemplative prayer, difficulties in prayer, The Lord’s Prayer, The Lord’s Prayer continued and The Lord’s Prayer concluded.
Wieser said another form of prayer is praise. “This can include dance, which can be beautiful and reverent. It needs to be done reverently and can engage people.”
Although the number of participants in Why Catholic? is down this year, Wieser said she is not disappointed. “Last year was morality and social justice. We had the elections, the economy, health care debates starting. There was a lot of discussion to do.
“This year will be much milder discussion. But we can take time to share prayer and be exposed to different forms of prayer to see what suits each individual best.”
In January, Father Abraham Orapankal, a missionary from India, will speak in the diocese, Wieser said. A presenter and retreat director for RENEW International, he has ministered in the Archdiocese of New York and served as a professor of theology, spiritual director for seminarians and a high school principal.
For more information about Why Catholic?, call the faith formation office at (563) 324-1911.