Diocese to hold kickoff for Bible-literacy campaign

Noted Catholic speaker Jeff Cavins coming to Cicero church

By Tom Maguire

Associate editor

Mary Hallman has read all 73 books of the Bible but has no interest in hoarding that knowledge.

   As the Director of the diocesan Evangelization Office, Hallman is offering a kickoff event for a Bible-literacy campaign that she hopes will enlighten at least 5,000 Catholics.

   Coinciding with National Bible Week, the “inspirational event,” as she calls it, is scheduled for Nov. 18 and 19 at Sacred Heart Church in Cicero. It will feature Jeff Cavins, a former Protestant minister and current Catholic layman from Minnesota. He is very well known in Catholic circles, Hallman said.

   Cavins created The Great Adventure Catholic Bible study program, which according to his website serves as an introduction to Scripture. He will speak Nov. 18 on “I’m Not Being Fed: Discovering the Food that Satisfies the Soul.” The next day, he will lead “The Bible Timeline Seminar.”

   Hallman hopes that Cavins’ visit will inspire Catholics to attend eight follow-up Bible-study sessions at parishes throughout the diocese. These parishes would be called “I Learned the Story” parishes. Cavins will not be present for those 30-minute follow-up sessions, called “Unlocking the Mystery of the Bible,” but participants will watch his recorded lessons and then study in small groups facilitated by the laity with the approval of the pastor.

   The company that makes the “I Learned the Story” banners recommended that Hallman try to attract one percent of the diocese’s 250,000 Catholics to attend. But Hallman told them: “We can do better than that. Let’s go for two.”

   According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website, “The Church encourages Catholics to make reading the Bible part of their daily prayer lives.”

   Hallman’s own motivation for extra Bible study goes back to 1994, when she moved to Idaho. Hallman observed that Mormon missionaries were very well informed.

   She wanted to understand her Christian faith better, so she took a yearlong Bible study course in the only place where it was offered, a Methodist church. The course helped her make sense of everything in Sacred Scripture.

   “I’d heard all those [Bible] stories, here and there, in the liturgy,” she said, “but it wasn’t until they were tied together in one seamless story that I really understood God’s character, God’s countenance: God was always faithful to man, even when man wasn’t faithful to God.

   “And I wanted to have a relationship with that God, that God who was always pursuing us and would stop at nothing to bring us back to him.”

   Once she understood that the Bible is the story of salvation history, she said, “I realized my salvation is part of that story too.”

   Hallman sees the two percent of diocesan Catholics in the “I Learned the Story” program this year as the first wave; she hopes to attract another 5,000 next year.

   “When you understand the Bible,” she said, “the Mass makes more sense, because so much of it is scriptural; so many things make more sense to you. You would be surprised how much of the liturgy is based in Scripture.”

   The “Unlocking the Mystery of the Bible” program has been offered to people of any denomination for four years at the Good News Center in Utica, said Tanya Gomez, the center’s Program Coordinator. Gomez said the non-profit educational center is not under diocesan auspices, but the perspective of the Bible study is the Catholic Church.

   People love the bible-literacy program, she said, and it attracts 60-80 people on a given day. Many people feel intimidated by the Bible or don’t understand it, she said.

But they study the color-coded biblical timeline that goes with the program, they learn the books of the Bible, and they also study the ones that have a narrative thread, she said.

   The program is well presented, simple to understand, challenging, and thought-provoking, Gomez said. After people attend the “Unlocking the Mystery” sessions, she said, the Mass and the readings become more meaningful to them and they feel enriched.

   The Bible, she said, is “the story of salvation history, but you realize: ‘I have a part to play in that story.’” The attendees, she said, realize that it’s a “story of love they’re called to enter into.”

   Deacon Ken Money of Sacred Heart Church said that Cavins is relatable, amusing, and relevant as he discusses the Bible.

   The Bible is the basis for everyday life’s decisions, Deacon Money said. People should take time away from social media, he said, to read a chapter from the Bible. He appreciates that Hallman’s office is promoting the kickoff event.

   Cavins’ Nov. 18 talk, set for 7-8:30 p.m., is free. “The reason a lot of people already signed up is … they want to meet him in person,” Hallman said. There is room for 850 people upstairs in the church where Cavins will speak, Deacon Money said.

   Cavins’ session Nov. 19 carries a $35 registration fee that includes the seminar packet, a continental breakfast, and lunch. Breakfast is 8:30-9 a.m.; the seminar lasts until 3 p.m. downstairs, where there is room for 300 people. With a little over three weeks to go, 100 people had registered, Deacon Money said.

   Hallman said Sacred Heart Parish and the diocese are jointly funding the kickoff. Funding for the subsequent eight-week “I Learned the Story” programs is through the HOPE Appeal, Hallman said.

   Any parishes that are interested in becoming an “I Learned the Story” parish should call Hallman’s office. She will tell them how to arrange to receive a free banner promoting the program.

Two kickoff events for Bible-literacy campaign

First event

What: ‘I’m Not Being Fed: Discovering the Food that Satisfies the Soul,’ free talk by Jeff Cavins; book signing and reception following talk.

When: Friday, Nov. 18., 7-8:30 p.m.

Where: Sacred Heart Church,
8229 Brewerton Road, Cicero

Second event

What: ‘The Bible Timeline Seminar.’

When: Saturday, Nov. 19,

8:30-9 a.m. (check-in/breakfast);
9 a.m.-3 p.m. (seminar)

Where: Sacred Heart Church,
8229 Brewerton Road, Cicero

Registration: Online for Saturday seminar: www.regonline.com/BTLCICERO.

Fee: Nov. 19, $35 covers seminar packet, continental breakfast, and lunch.

More information

Deacon Ken Money, (315) 699-2752, kmoney@syrdio.org. To become an ‘I Learned the Story’ parish, visit syracusecatholic.com or contact Mary Hallman, Director of Evangelization, mhallman@syrdio.org or

(315) 470-1429.

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