Learning about Vatican II at Newton faith festivals


By Celine Klosterman

From left, Mason Lee, Breyton Schwenker, Brian Schwenker and John Lee prepare a poster on which to display highlights from a Vatican II document during an intergenerational faith festival at Sacred Heart Parish in Newton Oct. 7.

NEWTON — Parents, grandparents and children at Sacred Heart Parish kicked off the Year of Faith together with an Intergenerational Faith Festival designed to take them to the scene of the Second Vatican Council.
Families gathered Oct. 7 and 10 for “The Story of Vatican II,” the first of five faith festivals Sacred Heart will hold through April. During last week’s sessions Catholics learned about the purpose, logistics and setting of the Council, which opened Oct. 11, 1962, and discussed landmark documents that resulted from it.
“We heard enough detail that I felt like I was there,” Emigdio Lopez-Sanders said. One of about 50 people at the Oct. 7 faith festival, he attended with his wife, Lori, and sons David, 13, and Daniel, 11.
“We kicked off with the logistics, which was actually very interesting,” John Lee said. “This was the early ‘60s, before cell phones and email, so coordinating that many bishops in one place was amazing. It was neat for us to understand that ground work before jumping into deeper topics.”
Lee attended the faith festival with his wife, Kim Didier, and three children ages 11 to 15. “We feel strongly that your faith is an individual commitment, but also that learning should be shared,” he said.
Encouraging families to study together is one reason Sacred Heart has held intergenerational faith festivals for years, said Tammy Norcross, the parish’s director of faith formation. She hopes the events inspire conversations between parents and youths. “We show kids that something is important by our own actions.”
The witness of older parishioners who attend the faith festivals is especially powerful, she said. “They’re retired age, and they’re still coming to learn and grow. I think our kids can’t help but notice that.”
Catholics in second grade or older can take part in the festivals. First-graders and younger children hear a separate lesson, Norcross said.
For the session on Vatican II, she designed a curriculum using materials from the website of Bill Huebsch, author of “Vatican II in Plain English.” In addition to praying and listening to a large-group presentation about the Council, some parishioners discussed their memories of life in the 1960s. To end the festival, Catholics broke into small groups to read about and present a summary of a Vatican II document to their fellow parishioners.
Joe Coen said he enjoyed getting to better know other members of Sacred Heart as they shared personal memories. The parish’s thought-provoking faith festivals offer a welcome opportunity for Catholics to share what’s on their mind, he said.
“You can have a discussion with your own family about the different things you learned,” said his daughter Grace, 15. “We don’t always get the same things out of the experience.”
But there’s one message Norcross hopes everyone takes away from the faith festivals: “Growing in faith is something we do our whole lives.”

Upcoming Intergenerational Year of Faith Festivals in Newton
Nov. 11 and 14
“John XXIII and other Amazing Saints”
Jan. 6 and 9
“The Domestic Church”
Feb. 3 and 6
“The Voice of God”
April 21 and 24
“The Baptismal Call to Discipleship”

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