St. John Neumann
Archdiocese of Detroit
For more information, contact Sue Middlemis at 248 344 0246.
Catholic Scripture Study International sets a high standard for excellence and depth in Catholic Bible studies.
"I've been very pleased with the enthusiasm for the Bible in the community of women that have been meeting! I see an increased level of excitement for the Word of God among the participants."
Fr. George Williams, St. John Neumann Parish, Canton, MI
"From what I see, the Scripture Study causes women to fall in love with Jesus, to want to spend more time in the Scriptures, and to want to get closer to God. Their love and respect for the Church grows. They want to spend more time in prayer and in practically living out their faith in their families, community, and Church."
Sue Middlemis, Organizer & Participant, Study Leader
The need it meets
It's not only the poorly catechized who need adult faith formation; those who are hungry to grow in their understanding of God's word need this kind of program in order to better infuse spiritual depth and dynamism into parish life.
Where it came from
This Bible study series comes from CSS (Catholic Scripture Study), which was founded by Gail Buckley, a convert from Protestantism. The program's nationwide popularity is due to its high-level scholarship, with writers such as Scott Hahn, Mark Shea, Steve Ray, and more.
How it works
The 30-week program runs from September to May with weekly 2 hour meetings. (Some groups may also run 90 minute meetings.)
- Open with prayer and (optional) a few songs
- Short 10 - 15 minute talk by one of the leaders on a spiritual topic
- Split into small groups of 8 -12 led by a facilitator. The small group meeting segment lasts for 50 minutes. The groups go over what they studied at home and discuss their answers to ten homework questions.
- Return to the large group and watch a thirty-minute lecture on DVD by a Catholic priest, usually featuring real-life applications.
- Close with prayer.
The program requires a high level of commitment: two or three hours of homework before each session. At home, participants read commentary notes, chapters of the Bible, and answer reflection and assimilation questions.
The facilitators meet the day before to pool information, ideas, and answers to questions.
For more information about the CSS program, visit the web site at www.cssprogram.net.
The program was started at St. John Neumann parish by Sue Middlemis, who began in 2004 with a group of 100. There are now more than 120 participants from fifteen parishes participating each week.
Two main "types" of participants come to the Bible study: people who already have a strong faith and who want to go deeper (~30%) and the vast majority who are poorly catechized and just beginning to learn their faith (~70%).
Among the second group, the results have been striking. Some are returning to confession for the first time in many years. The faith becomes real to them, and they develop a deep hunger for prayer and Eucharistic adoration, begin reading more spiritual books, sharing their faith, and gaining a deeper sense of their connection to the Church.
Another result has been strengthened families: Some spouses have begun going to RCIA, while others have begun practicing their faith again.
In the past few years, only three have left the program because they were turned off by its doctrinal orthodoxy. The truth is attractive and compelling.
Advertising. The team based in St John Neumann advertised in 20 parish bulletins, on Catholic radio and by word of mouth.
Committed leaders. Sue Middlemis brought together a six-member leadership team which prepared for six months with prayer (the Rosary) and who were willing to commit to the program. The leadership team was willing to strive for a high standard of organization and professionalism to match competing Evangelical (Protestant) Bible studies. All of the leaders had to be in full doctrinal agreement with the Magisterium.
Materials for group study and for promotion. There is a full set of materials for each study leader and for the students. (Purchase at the online store: http://www.cssprogram.net/?page=catalog.) The study leader's package comes with:
- Program Manual - A detailed guide explaining everything from promoting the program, holding registration, forming a leadership team, scheduling classes and structuring class format, to navigating the CSS website.
- Group Leader Handbook - A reproducible guide for training other members of the leadership team. It also includes tips for the Discussion Group Leader, prayers, attendance forms and more.
- DVD Lecture Series - Insightful 30-minute video lectures presented by Catholic priests to supplement each week's lesson.
- The Essential Folder - Contains reproducible materials to aid promotion and organization for a successful study program such as flyers, bulletin announcements, table signs, sign-in sheets, sample lessons, registration cards, etc.
- Color Brochures - One package of fifty full-color, three-fold brochures for effective promotion of the CSS Program in your parish.
- Suggested responses to the study questions and DVD lecture notes.
- CSS Study Leader's Briefcase
How to implement it
- Choose someone who really believes this can be a great help to adults who need solid catechesis. This leader should be willing and able to take on a high level of commitment.
- Put together a solid leadership team.
- Promote. The study leader's package comes with promotion materials and suggestions.
- All materials can be purchased at this web site: www.cssprogram.net. The web site also lists places where classes are currently being offered.
Submitted by Trish Bailey on June 25, 2008.
Fr. George Williams is pastor of St. John Neumann.