“Spiritual and/or Religious?” “I’m afraid that I am the last Catholic in my family.” “I just can’t do this anymore.” “I want to belong, but where?”
One local church is experimenting with a program to deal with those issues in this season of Lent, in which the 40-day period between Ash Wednesday and the Thursday before Easter is observed in the Christian tradition by fasting, prayer and penitence.
Father David Mickiewicz, pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Oneonta, said he hopes to dispel with a series called, “Lent for Real Life” the uncertainty some practitioners of Catholicism might be feeling, going beyond the question: “What are you giving up for Lent?”
“We have a parish mission beginning Monday and going through Friday,” Mickiewicz said. “We have local people speaking, and our topics are very intense. The series will be presented twice during the day, so that those people who work may come in the evening and those people who do not want to be out after dark can come during the day.”
“We want to make this as accessible as possible,” he said. “We are providing child care and will stay on a 90-minute per session track, and that includes questions and answers.”
The topics were chosen by committee members who had read “Christianity After Religion,” by Diana Butler Bates. The book talks about living in a secular community, and yet churches treat religious dogma with more importance that the spiritual acts, Mickiewicz said.
“The way the church rites are presented, it is like an exclusive language known only to those who are a part of the group,” he said. “We need to rethink that. Religion expresses our dichotomy when it should be about — not so much the mythology but more of the responsibility of the church. Pope Francis has really given the church a whole new face. As he says, it is time for mercy.”