With book, parishes hope to help Catholics rediscover religion


By Celine Klosterman

This Christmas season, more than a dozen parishes in the Davenport Diocese aim to give Catholics the gift of renewed faith. 

Parishes in the Iowa City area, Muscatine, Davenport, Fort Madison, Sigourney and Keota are working to give every family in their parish a free copy of the book “Rediscovering Catholicism,” by internationally known speaker and author Matthew Kelly. Parish leaders hope the book, which they describe as an easy-to-read, inspirational overview of Catholicism, will touch everyone from Catholics who attend Mass only on holidays to daily churchgoers.

Many people who participate in Christmas Mass won’t visit a Catholic church again until the following Christmas, observed Joe Flanders. “This is a good time to reach out to them.”

A member of Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine, Flanders led the movement to distribute Kelly’s 313-page paperback. Flanders’ effort is a project of New Evangelization Ministries, an organization he founded to promote engaging, faithfully Catholic programs throughout the diocese.


He first worked on the “Rediscovering Catholicism” effort with Julie Agne, director of religious education at St. Mary Parish in Solon, which distributed the book to parish families about a year ago. Now, he said, parishes have ordered a total of 10,500 books — enough for about 10 percent of the diocese’s Catholics.

“I hope this helps people realize what it means to be Catholic,” said Father Rich Adam, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Riverside, Holy Trinity Parish in Richmond and St. Joseph Parish in Wellman. “I think there’s a lack of knowledge of our faith, but when people understand what our Church has done for the world, they’ll better appreciate our religion.”

He anticipates that distributing “Rediscovering Catholicism” to more than 600 families in his three parishes also may encourage the parishioners to evangelize to non-Catholics. “Hopefully, this will be a discussion starter.”

Most parishes are paying for the volumes thanks to donations, parish funds, parish organization funds or a combination of the three.

Bob Squires, director of the office of Evangelization and Stewardship for the Iowa City Catholic Community, said the ministry is paying for 2,600 copies to distribute at St. Thomas More Parish in Coralville, St. Wenceslaus Parish in Iowa City and St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City.  For St. Mary’s in Iowa City and several other parishes, anonymous donors offered to cover the $2 cost per book — a discounted price available for groups buying more than 250 copies.

The expense is a good investment, said Father Bill Kneemiller, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Hills and St. Mary parishes in Nichols and Lone Tree. He said Kelly’s engaging style can offer the 225 families in the three parishes a little “back door catechesis.”

Some parishes plan to continue that catechesis after the Christmas season. St. James Parish in Washington is among those that will offer a small-group study based on Kelly’s book. “We hope these groups will remain together after the study is over and nourish each other’s faith,” said Father Troy Richmond, pastor. “Something we Catholics have not always been good at is forming relationships among parishioners. At Mass, we might sit in the pews next to people we don’t really know.” The study will be an opportunity for the parish of 800 families to capture the sense of a smaller faith community, Fr. Richmond said. “It has the potential to re-energize the parish.”

St. James will distribute “Rediscovering Catholicism” during Masses the upcoming three weekends. Copies will be taken to the homes of registered parishioners who didn’t receive one during a Saturday or Sunday Mass. The parish’s efforts ideally will serve as community building and evangelization tools, said Janis Vittetoe, director of religious education.

Flanders hopes distributing Kelly’s book also will promote the speaker’s upcoming “Passion and Purpose” retreat Feb. 19 at St. Patrick Church in Iowa City. St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport is among parishes that are publicizing and will be selling tickets to the daylong event.

The 1,100-family Davenport parish already has given out copies of “Rediscovering Catholicism” at Masses and plans to visit families who didn’t receive a book, said John Muenster. He’s among Catholics coordinating St. Paul the Apostle’s effort.

People he gave the book to in the past six months have told him it impacted their lives, he said. “That’s so refreshing to hear.”

Matthew Kelly to speak in Iowa City

Matthew Kelly’s “Passion and Purpose” event will take place Saturday, Feb. 19, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at St. Patrick Church in Iowa City. The event aims to inspire Catholics and explore Catholicism’s application in various aspects of life, including prayer and spirituality, work, dating and marriage, personal finances, health and well-being, and parenting. For a registration form and details about the day, visit www.newevangelization.org. Tickets are $50 and also can be purchased in the Iowa City area from Cheryl Schropp at (319) 337-2856 or Dan Teets at (319) 337-4314, in the Quad-Cities area from John Muenster at (563) 343-1355 or Rosie Megraw at (563) 322-3768, or in Muscatine from Kay Flanders at (563) 299-9526.

Spanish-speaking parishioners to get CD

Matthew Kelly’s book “Rediscovering Catholicism” isn’t yet available in Spanish, so parishes with Hispanic populations also are distributing the Lighthouse Catholic Media CD “Por Qué Soy Católico?” or “Why Am I Catholic?” The CD contrasts Catholicism with Protestant denominations and aims to motivate Catholics to practice their faith. Giving out copies of the CD are St. James Parish in Washington, St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City, St. Joseph Parish in Columbus Junction and Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine.

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