Program #0009 for Monday, March 21, 2011: Mom’s Day Away and Alpha for Catholics

March 21, 2011

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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry

Today’s guest(s): Pat Gohn and Rachel Balducci for Faith and Family magazine’s “Mom’s Day Away” and Tom Shields, Peter Carpentier, and Dick Kiernan from Alpha for Catholics

Today’s topics: Mom’s Day Away for Catholic moms, Catholic moms in new media, and Alpha for Catholics

A summary of today’s show: Pat Gohn and Rachel Balducci talk with Scot about Faith and Family’s Mom’s Day Away for Catholic moms coming up on April 2 as well as their personal projects including blogs, books, podcasts, and online columns. Then Scot welcomes Tom Shields, Peter Carpentier, and Rick Kiernan to discuss the Alpha for Catholics program in the Boston archdiocese. Finally, Scot and George Martell talk about George’s photographs and the unique ways the Internet allows him to share them.

1st segment: Scot read a statement from Jim Wright, president of The Station of the Cross, on Fr. John Corapi’s administrative leave and then read a statement from Fr. Corapi from his website. The Station of the Cross has suspended ticket sales for the August 6 conference with Fr. Corapi pending consultation with advisors and resolution of the situation.

2nd segment: Scot welcomes Pat Gohn and Rachel Balducci of Faith and Family magazine. Pat said Faith and Family magazine and their website is a ministry of high quality for Catholic families and especially with Catholic moms in mind. Faith and Family Live is a great resource that brings together bloggers and has built a close-knit online community. Mom’s Day Away is a day to bring the community of Faith and Family together. Rachel talked about the experience of meeting so many of the women who’ve been reading her blogs and book. It’s an opportunity to give these Internet relationships a soul. There is a challenge to forming relationships online. It can be easy to forget there’s a person on the other end of the computer. She was at the Catholic New Media Celebration in Boston last summer and had a great time meeting so many real life connections with people she’d already met online. You need the real-life connections to go along with the online interactions.

One of the three keynotes is Jennifer Fulwiler. She grew up never believing in God, raised as an atheist. After getting married, she and her husband starting exploring the lack they felt in their lives. The Internet became a resource for her and through the Catholics she met online she discovered God and joined the Catholic Church.

Danielle Bean is the editor of Faith and Family magazine and one of the other speakers. Pat said it is her vision and leadership that has brought the magazine and website to where it is today. She’s an author as well as wife and mother of 8. She brings a lot of exuberance and energy to everything she does including this day.

Stoneham was chosen as the location for this first day because it was close to the publisher’s home base in Connecticut and in a larger metropolitan area. Fr. Bill Schmidt of St. Patrick, Stoneham, generously offered the use of his very beautiful parish, which is conveniently located on a major roadways. They are keeping it small with just 200 tickets available.

Rachel said although it’s called Mom’s Day Away, it’s for all women. The three speakers all have big families and know what it takes to extricate themselves from the home. It’s an opportunity to get together with other women, but also to get spiritual refreshment. It can be as intense or as laid back as they want it to be. She hopes women will go home refreshed and energized and able to be the best women they can be. Pat said her hope for the day is that there is a lot of laughter and time to talk over a great luncheon. There will be moments of prayer, adoration, silence, confession and the celebration of the Mass. They are joining together to build community between the women who come. There is a desire to celebrate the vocation of motherhood.

Rachel said they’re not forgetting about Lent with this celebration, but they’re putting aside the sackcloth and ashes for just one day.

Scot asked whether men should buy tickets for their wives to go? Pat said it would be a great Lenten service to the family if the husband could say to his wife that he will take over with the kids for a day so she can have this day away. Of course for moms with husbands who work on the weekends or are single moms, it would be great for others to step forward for them so they can get away. She also asked for prayers for the day.

It will be 8am-5pm, April 2 at St. Patrick’s Parish hall, Stoneham. Less than half of the available tickets are left. Tickets must be purchased online in advance, not at the door.

3rd segment: Rachel is the mother of 5 boys (and 1 baby girl) and she chronicles her experiences raising them on her blog. She started blogging 5 years ago when she had 4 boys under the age of 8. When the fourth boy became 3, life became overwhelming with a pack of boys roaming her home. Girls provide a tempering influence on their brothers. As a former newspaper reporter, writing is therapeutic for her and the blog helped her take a step back and look objectively at her life with her kids. Sharing funny stories helped her deal with the difficulties. Other moms write to her about how it helps them deal with raising boys.

She has readers from all over the world. She recalls within the first couple of months getting a link from The National Review magazine’s “The Corner” blog and she started to see readers from Australia and Europe and elsewhere. She felt good that her writing was reaching all over the world and encouraging the readers. One reader thanked her for reminding her to find the humor in her life’s struggles and stresses.

Her new book is “How Do You Tuck in a Superhero”. Her aim is to help other moms become excited that God sent them boys too. Having boys helps her recognize that her job is to raise the boys to know, love, and serve Jesus, but boys are challenging because boys aren’t particularly and innately religious. She wants to raise them to love Jesus and to be civilized human beings too. Scot asked whether Rachel always had a sense of humor or did she get it from raising boys. She said she comes from a very funny family that gave her a great sense of humor.

4th segment: Pat agreed with Scot that Rachel has a great sense of humor and a great perspective. Scot said it’s striking to him how close the pioneers in Catholic new media have become just through online relationships. Pat said using the Internet to make connections is part of the new evangelization. It’s a new way of reaching out and touching the world in an evangelistic and missionary way.

One of Pat’s first new media initiatives was the Among Women podcast. Pat had already been writing online and as she got to know more and more writers, she found many of them starting podcasts. She explained what a podcast is: It is like a radio show that downloads to your computer and you can put it on your iPod or other digital media players to play anywhere. You can find them on individual websites or in iTunes.

“Among Women” is a phrase from the Hail Mary and she chose it because when she’s with other Christian women, she’s happy to find community in Christ in the unique ways they relate. The podcast is part faith-sharing, part teaching, and part cup of coffee together. An episode could be about how to use the Bible as a devotional aid in prayer or recovery from abuse or women’s issues. It looks at spiritual issues in women’s lives and gives them expression.

The first segment of each program is a profile of a saint or mystic and the second is a conversation with a woman sharing something from her own life. It could be an author or speaker or just a woman in the pew. It celebrates the faith and beauty and grace in a well-lived Catholic life.

She’s reached 100 episodes with her show. She and her husband Bob are very active at St. Michael’s in Andover. They’ve been involved in faith-sharing groups, like Renew and Arise; prayer groups; Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament; and music ministry. Their involvement evolved as their family has grown and evolved. St. Michael’s is the largest parish in the Archdiocese and has a very long list of ministries and programs available. Pat has worked on the ministry team at the parish and saw how much work is involved. The downside of such a large parish could be the need to find a ministry to become involved with so one can feel a part of a very large community. That can happen in any parish. It’s important to make familiar connections with that parish, to find opportunities for one-to-one sharing and relationships.

5th segment: Scot welcomes Tom Shields, Peter Carpentier, and Dick Kiernan. Alpha for Catholics is a 10-week practical introduction to the Christian faith, primarily for non-church goers but also for Catholics refreshing their understanding of the faith. It includes a dinner followed by a 45-minute video and a 45-minute discussion. There’s also a weekend away mid-course.

It was first designed for non-Catholic Christians, but Catholics asked for it as well. Many bishops around the world have recommended Alpha for Catholics as well as papal preacher Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa.

Some of the fruits of Alpha included the story of a Springfield diocese priest who was preparing to retire, but when he saw the effects of Alpha in enlivening his parish, he asked the bishop to delay his retirement.

There is also Alpha for Youth, which uses youth presenters and talks and videos intended for them. Many agnostic and atheist-leaning kids come in and are completely turned around.

There have been 16 million globally who have gone through Alpha. In New England, there have been more than 5,000.

Why should Catholics do Alpha? More than 80% of Catholics don’t attend Mass and many of those who do go, go out of obligation. Alpha helps engender a personal relationship with Christ. Alpha attendees routinely come to full sacramental participation in their parishes. It provides an important point of entry back into the Church for lapsed Catholics as well. It works best with the blessings of the pastor. There is a regional team of Catholic advisors to help train the parish’s Alpha team.

There are five upcoming luncheons and evening gatherings for pastors, parish staff, and lay volunteers to introduce them to Alpha leading up to training in June, which will equip them to lead Alpha in their parishes.

  • March 28, St. Mary, Rowley
  • April 4, St. Malachy, Burlington
  • April 5, Sacred Heart, Bradford
  • April 11, St. Joseph, Needham
  • April 14, St. Joseph, Holbrook

One of the good ways to start Alpha is to attend a course at a nearby parish with other key leaders from your parish. A list of Alpha courses is available on the Alpha USA website.

6th segment: Scot welcomes George Martell, the archdiocesan photographer, to talk about the Boston Catholic Flickr.com photography site. As he shoots photos at live events, the photos are automatically uploaded so they are available within minutes of being shot. It’s especially good for people to follow along with friends and family who are on pilgrimages. George and Dom Bettinelli will be with the World Youth Day pilgrimage to Madrid this summer. George said that working with the Boston Herald for almost 20 years he never had that immediacy of contact with viewers.

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