I write resources for group study and reflection because in close to 25 years working for the Church, I have seen nothing more powerful for personal and parish renewal than small groups. With each passing year I have only grown more convinced and passionate about this.
Let me boil it down this way: Faith grows stronger in relationships, and relationships grow stronger in faith.
I became really familiar with small group ministry when I was hired by the pastor of a large suburban parish in Minneapolis in 1988, just after returning from my studies in Rome (see below). The parish had a long history of small groups, and some had been meeting regularly for 10, even 20 years. I was charged with overseeing this network and finding and developing resources. Close to 300 parishioners were involved, and it was fascinating to see how each group had its own personality.
My wife Clare and I became members of two wonderful groups. One I liked to call the “feisty” group. It consisted of a collection of mostly “type A” men and their equally accomplished wives. These were doctors and lawyers and other professionals who were also committed Catholics. Their group had been meeting monthly for over 10 years. They thrived on digging deeper in the Faith, they loved to laugh, and their bond of friendship was obvious. This also made it easy for them to voice their personal and family intentions during the prayer component of the meetings. Our time with them was inspiring, and it was fun.
In 2001 I came to work for the Diocese of La Crosse and in 2006 my “Office of Ministries” was merged with the “Office of Social Concerns.” This crossover of responsibilities prompted me to begin writing the Discipleship Series for small groups, out of a desire to integrate the inspirational, devotional dimension of faith with a committed love of neighbor. The positive feedback I have received on these books from a diverse audience – from university students to inmates at the county jail, from deacons in Kansas City to little old ladies in Spooner, Wisconsin – has been heartwarming beyond words.
The Catechism series is a new endeavor for the Year of Faith that has a more catechetical focus, but still with the aim of being “user-friendly” and achieving a meaningful integration of faith with life.
I get my love of writing especially from my father, who died in 1995. He was a lifelong journalist with observant eyes and a big heart. His writing always had a certain warmth. I try to emulate that.
|Chiara, Chris, Elena and Clare at Sugar Loaf Mountain 2011|
I was raised in Fargo, North Dakota, the first of seven children, by faithful, loving Catholic parents. I provoked in them a fair bit of worry and plenty of prayers as I entered young adulthood and wandered from agnosticism to New Age.
After about eight years as a confused “seeker,” I discovered Mother Teresa of Calcutta and was bowled over. The example of her boundless love and joy led me to begin reading about other holy men and women not far removed from our own day, such as Thérèse of Lisieux and Padre Pio of Pietrelcina.
I became utterly captivated by the radiant beauty and selfless love of the saints, and I asked myself a simple question: What garden produces such beautiful flowers? The answer was obvious - the Catholic Church. I returned, full of joy, and that joy has only grown as the years have passed.
I studied theology in Rome in the 1980’s and received my S.T.L. from the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and the Family in Rome in 1988. I was exceedingly blessed during my time in Rome, meeting Pope John Paul II several times and Mother Teresa twice. I worked as a translator for the English edition of the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, translating many of Pope John Paul II’s talks from Italian.
In 1989 I married Clare, the woman of my dreams. Beautiful soul that she is, her heart has always been set on God, but she found room for me, too. We have rejoiced in the gift of three wonderful sons – John (married in June of 2012), Richard and Aaron – followed by two lovely daughters – Chiara and Elena.
|Elena, Aaron, Richard, Chiara - Christmas 2011|
|John with Bride Catherine - June 16, 2012|