September 13, 2013

Religious Education Supplement

Movements, apostolates and groups add variety to small groups, can enliven parish ministries

A group of Benedictine oblates of Saint Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad from Bloomington pose in the monastery’s guest house. Benedictine oblates are lay people who seek to live out their faith in the world according to the Rule of St. Benedict. (Submitted photo)

A group of Benedictine oblates of Saint Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad from Bloomington pose in the monastery’s guest house. Benedictine oblates are lay people who seek to live out their faith in the world according to the Rule of St. Benedict. (Submitted photo)

By Sean Gallagher

Parishes across central and southern Indiana sponsor small groups in which their members nurture each other’s faith and help find ways each can apply it to their daily lives.

But the Church has a wide variety of movements, apostolates and other groups that are not part of the structure of dioceses or parishes, but have a long history of forming Catholics into disciples that end up contributing to building up their local Church.

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis has liaisons with 39 such groups. They vary from Focolare, a lay ecclesial movement founded in Italy in 1943, to the Knights of Columbus to the St. Thomas More Society, an organization of Catholic legal professionals in central and southern Indiana. Others are tied more to individual parishes or regions in the archdiocese.

Father Patrick Beidelman, executive director of the archdiocese’s Secretariat for Spiritual Life and Worship, sees these groups as “partners with the parishes and archdiocesan Church.”

“They share the mission,” Father Beidelman said. “They kind of flow from parish life and then back to it. And where they’re most healthy and where they’re most effective is often when they complement and support the work of a parish, which, to me, is the most important building block in the life of a Catholic, next to the family, the domestic Church.”

One group that has done this for more than 50 years in the New Albany Deanery is the Legion of Mary. Its members meet weekly for prayer, formation and to build up each other’s devotion to the Blessed Mother. They also on a weekly basis go out in pairs to visit and pray with the homebound and those in hospitals, nursing homes or retirement facilities.

Irene Bacher, a member of Holy Family Parish in New Albany, says that local parishes will give the names of parishioners in such places to members of the Legion so they can minister to them.

“We try to keep our Blessed Mother in their thoughts before we leave so they can turn to her whenever they have a little bit of down time in their day,” Bacher said.

Danny Hall, a member of St. Mary Parish in Navilleton, joined the Legion of Mary in 1970 after he witnessed its members minister to his mother for four years as she slowly grew more infirmed and died.

That led him to want to do for others what Legion members did for him, his family and his mother.

“The Legion of Mary came once a week,” Hall said. “They prayed with us and became good friends during those four years. I’ve been doing what they did, and that’s visiting the hospital or nursing homes or shut-ins.”

Other Catholics across central and southern Indiana have grown in their faith and helped others grow in theirs by becoming oblates of St. Benedict of Saint Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad.

A Benedictine oblate is usually a lay person living in the world, but who seeks to form their lives of faith according to the Rule of St. Benedict and by daily praying the Liturgy of the Hours.

Janis Dopp is an oblate who serves as director of religious education at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Bloomington. She and about 10 other Catholics in that southern Indiana city became oblates in the early 1990s. Some 20 years later, there are more than 30 oblates in Bloomington. There is another chapter of oblates in Indianapolis.

Dopp said that being part of an oblate chapter helps her and fellow members be accountable in their lives of faith.

“There’s also a caring about one another that is a natural outgrowth [of being an oblate],” Dopp said. “If one of the oblates is ill, we know about it and we’re all praying for that person. We have a secretary that keeps all of us informed all the time about anything that comes up.”

The chapter meets monthly for prayer, to share a meal and to listen to a spiritual conference given by a monk of Saint Meinrad Archabbey.

“What they say to us is usually extremely practical,” Dopp said. “It’s an easy stretch to take that out. They tend to take those portions of the Rule or Scripture that have to do with the practical living of life, so that we can take them out and live them in an intentional way, so that our lives really are going to be changed.”

Deacon Marc Kellams’ life was changed when he became a Benedictine oblate. He credits the program with leading him to discern his vocation to the permanent diaconate.

“I’m pretty sure that had I not taken that first step to become involved in the oblate program, I might not have become interested in the deacon formation program,” said Deacon Kellams. “I can pretty clearly say that there was a progression of interest from one to the other.”

Deacon Kellams ministers at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Bloomington and sees how his fellow oblates give of themselves in service to their broader faith community.

“The oblates are normally very active in the parish,” he said. “Their relationship to the Church, which is enhanced by their involvement in the oblate program, probably encourages them to be willing to be of service. It gives them a greater feeling of belonging.”

Ron Greulich, a member of St. Simon the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis and director of stewardship education in the archdiocese’s Office of Stewardship and Development, sees a similar parish involvement in people like himself who have experienced a three-day Cursillo retreat and are known as “cursillistas.”

Cursillo is a movement in the Church that was founded in Spain in 1944, and has been active in central Indiana for nearly 50 years.

Greulich meets weekly with a group of men cursillistas, and knows how active they are in their faith communities.

“They are all engaged in their parish,” he said. “They’re doing things beyond just [Cursillo].”

Greulich said that weekly meetings are vital to the movement’s power to transform the faith of ordinary Catholics. The weekly meetings, known in Cursillo as the fourth day reunion, happen after an individual has attended the initial retreat.

“There’s kind of an accountability there,” he said. “So you like to be there on Sunday and share with one another. Oftentimes, it’s probably the most focused time that you would have spent that week in a spiritual conversation with any men.”

Greulich said that these meetings help him and many other cursillistas take their faith out into the world in conscious ways in their daily lives.

“In this new evangelization, that’s what we’re called to do,” Greulich said. “And it’s going to take so much more than the popes, the bishops and the priests. It’s really going to take all of us as lay people.”

(For more information about the Legion of Mary in the New Albany Deanery, call Irene Bacher at 812-944-3249. For more information on the Benedictine oblates of Saint Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad, log on to For information about Cursillo in central Indiana, log on to

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