INDIANOLA, ST. CATHERINE - Parishioners Kay Portillo (left)
and Marilyn Slater take notes at St. Catherine Parish in
Indianola while pastor Father Thomas McGuire leads a study
session on Pope Benedict XVI’s teachings on the Church
Fathers. This is the the latest in a series of study
sessions he has hosted at the parish. (SNR photo courtesy
Seasonal Study Sessions in Indianola Help Faith Grow
By S.L. Hansen
INDIANOLA (SNR) - Every Sunday evening in Lent, a group of
parishioners of St. Catherine Church in Indianola gather to study and
discuss Pope Benedict XVI’s teachings on the Church Fathers. It’s the latest
in a series of study session hosted by Father Thomas McGuire, pastor.
“They want to grow in their faith,” Father McGuire said.
In the nearly three years that he has been pastor of St. Catherine
Parish, he has led three study sessions. The first was focused on the Bible
timeline. There were 24 sessions in all. People got a lot out of it, but the
long commitment was a bit burdensome.
Shortly before Advent last year, a group of parishioners approached
Father McGuire about doing another study, so they could keep learning. They
specifically asked to study the last book of the Bible, Revelation.
Father McGuire admitted that this was a text he had typically
“I had never really studied it in depth myself,” he said. “But I
wanted to study it with them... The pope says if we want to understand
liturgy, we should read the book of Revelation.”
He acquired a study guide with DVD and texts so they could learn
about this mysterious book together. It turned out to be an eye-opening
experience for all the participants.
“It was nothing like what I thought,” said Ruth Sughroue, who is a
convert to the Catholic faith. “I’d always heard a lot of stuff (about the
Book of Revelation) that really wasn’t true. It was very interesting.”
The study did indeed help them understand the liturgy better, as
well as shedding light on the Advent readings that come from Revelation.
Father McGuire said that the education they gained was beneficial in
another unexpected way.
“I realized that we were getting a better understanding of the very
early generations of the Church, when the apostles and the successors who
followed them were trying to figure out how we are supposed to use this gift
that Christ has given us (meaning the Church),” he said. “How do we protect
it, how do we make it thrive, how do we teach people?”
The study was so fruitful, Mrs. Sughroue noted that each session
would last longer than the one before. When the last session ended, “Nobody
wanted to go home. We wanted to stay there and learn more.”
Soon afterward, members of the group were approaching Father McGuire
with another idea for a study: early Church history and the Church fathers.
He found the idea appealing as well, because he’d never done an in-depth
study of the Church fathers himself.
“I only remembered one book, but when I was on the internet, I found
out that the pope had talked about the Church fathers,” recalled Father
The talks had been collected in a book published by Ignatius Press.
“The chapters are short, but they are rich,” Father McGuire said.
Not only that, there was a companion study guide written by Mike
Aquilina, vice president of the Saint Paul Center for Biblical Theology in
Steubenville, Ohio, author and occasional guest on EWTN and KVSS Spirit
Father McGuire ordered the books and scheduled the study for Sundays
in Lent. Conven-iently, Mr. Aquilina’s book is divided into six historical
time periods, so it made sense to use one section for each Sunday.
With two sessions completed, the group is being introduced to saints
who helped forge the early Church.
“I hope they will learn how the faith really does come to us from
the apostles and their preaching,” said Father McGuire.
This particular study is intellectually challenging, but the
participants are eager to read and discuss what the Church Fathers wanted to
“We’re trying to learn more about the Church,” Mrs. Sughroue said.
“If you’re going to be Catholic, you need to know the background of your
Currently, there are no concrete plans about what the group will
study next, but everyone wants the Sunday night sessions to continue.
“Everybody can learn,” maintained Mrs. Sughroue.” You’re never done