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A Lectionary-based Approach to Learning the Faith – An Old and New Method

We recently had the opportunity to interview Catholic author Ken Ogorek. Ken has written several wonderful books and he is currently the Director of Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. The Gospel Truth, from Paulist Press, is his latest book.

Our interview with Ken Ogorek:

Can you give our readers/customers some information about your background? What about the other books you have written or co-written?

To prepare myself to teach high school religion (and unbeknownst to me prepare myself for what I do now) I earned an M.A. in Religious Education at a Pontifical Center for Catechetical Studies.  After teaching for a few years I was invited to take on some diocesan administrative duties in Pittsburgh, PA.  Although I missed teaching and still do, I grew to see how important—for good or ill—diocesan catechetical work is.  Now I find myself in my native Hoosier state serving as Director of Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.  I have a catechetical resource for parish youth ministry coming out soon via Emmaus Road.  Here are some other publications of mine:

Encountering Jesus in the New Testament (Teacher Manual – co-author), Ave Maria Press, 2003. Catholic Parent Know-How: Faith-Filled Summer Activities, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing, 2005. Gifted with the Spirit (editorial assistance), Pflaum Publishing Group, 2005. The Great Life: Essays on Doctrine and Holiness in honor of Fr. Ronald Lawler, OFM Cap. (co-editor), Emmaus Road Publishing, 2005.

Our readers/customers are always interested in the process of writing a book. Can you tell us both about the process you went through to write “The Gospel Truth” and your motivation to write the book.

I wrote the book to fill a void.  Lots of catechetical resources are lectionary-based and several use words like comprehensive and systematic to describe themselves, but none that I saw met an objective standard of comprehensiveness.  As Pope John Paul the Great pointed out in On Catechesis in Our Times one of our most basic rights is to hear the Catholic faith proclaimed comprehensively with neither gap nor error (CT 30).

I took the checklist [ http://www.usccb.org/catechism/document/protocol.shtml ] that our American bishops use to determine doctrinal conformity with the Catechism of the Catholic Church and correlated it to the three-year cycle of Sunday Gospel readings.  It was sort of like putting a puzzle together.  The result is a book that not only includes all of these Gospel readings but also gives readers an objectively comprehensive overview of the Faith—while inviting them to deepen their relationship with our Triune God and their participation in the holy Catholic Church.

A “Lectionary-based catechism” is an interesting idea. Can you tell us what you mean by that and how you see the book being utilized?

The lectionary phrase here simply means that the overview of the Faith provided in this book is closely related to our Sunday Mass readings.  I hear so many stories of how people are using and enjoying the book.  Individuals use it for weekly prayer times—often after reading it cover-to-cover first as a preview.  Parents use it with children (each week has a conversation-starter question for parents and kids).  RCIA groups use it not only during the initiation process but as a gift to those fully initiated—a gift that keeps on giving.  Priests even use it to prepare homilies such that over time the faithful hear key doctrines preached on at Holy Mass.

Mike Aquilina says you are using an idea that “reaches back to the Church Fathers’ method of teaching.” Can you expand a bit on that for us?

Much catechesis in the early Church occurred when bishops preached to catechumens.  Many of these homilies are extant.  Thus the Sacred Scripture heard at Mass served as a basis to develop Sacred Tradition.

The book has a foreword by Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. How did that come about?

I was blessed to serve on then-Bp. Wuerl’s pastoral staff for nine years in Pittsburgh.  I sensed that he would appreciate the book and he was kind enough to offer that foreword.  Bishops with a special emphasis on catechesis are often interested in helping further authentic catechetical renewal by supporting sound, solid catechetical resources.

You are currently Director of Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. What would you say are the main challenges in educating in the Catholic faith in our time and how does your book address some of those challenges?

Our culture, although it offers much that is good, can at times be a brutal opponent to living a Catholic life.  Also, wounded by original sin as we are, we don’t always gravitate toward experiences that help bring us lasting happiness and true joy.  When religion is discussed at all it’s often marginalized—compartmentalized.

This book shows the relevance of faith to the individual’s life, a family’s life and our life as a community—a society.  The relevance is in the form of questions each week, questions that apply truth to experience so that experience can serve as a springboard to embracing the Truth.

How is a Scriptural-based approach to catechesis, like the one in your book, especially effective? What are the challenges?

We need to see the connection between Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition; books like this one can be very helpful along these lines.  One challenge can be that the same Scripture passage can call to mind many points of doctrine.  I see this ultimately as a strength because it helps folks see the interconnectedness of our Faith—its organic nature.

How can Catholics who are not currently involved in any formal stage faith formation, say the average adult Catholic today, benefit from your book?

In some ways this is an ideal audience for this book.  It’s written very conversationally and lays out the Faith in easily-digestible servings.  Several folks have told me they’ve given it as a gift to someone who could use a little shot in the arm with faith formation.

Finally, those of us in Catholic retailing and publishing, not to mention those teaching the faith, always talk about the “problem/crisis of catechesis” today in that so many seem to know so little about their faith. Is this a new issue in the Church or a newly recognized issue? Can you give us your view on the subject?

My view and a dollar will get you a small coffee at McDonald’s! Looking back over centuries it’s safe to say that knowledge of the Faith has ebbed and flowed at times.  More recently we went from a period of great clarity in teaching to a 25-year stretch when many teachers, even with good intentions, didn’t provide a clear and compelling proclamation of God’s beautiful truth.

We’re righting the ship but digging ourselves out of a deep hole.  (How’s that for a mixed metaphor?)  Solid efforts like yours and truly good speakers like those found here  http://www.tmgspeakers.com/Speakers/Ogorek/ are part of the solution.  By God’s grace we’ll keep making real progress and give folks a fighting chance at hearing the truth and embracing the Way, the Truth and the Life!

Ken, thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this interview with us. May God bless all your efforts on behalf of the Church! – the staff of Aquinas and More

You may purchase Ken’s new book The Gospel of Truth here.

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