by Catherine Heinhold, Pastoral Associate for Ignatian Spirituality
“My faith is really a private thing.”
How many times have you heard someone say this? How often have we said it ourselves?
Maybe we’ve been hurt by judgmental people, or felt that we’re being hammered over the head by someone preaching at us in our family or in a social situation. We think, “if I keep my faith private, I won’t have to deal with other people’s opinions about it.”
All across our parish, however, people are sharing their faith experiences with each other. As a result, they find an increase of faith, hope, and love in their lives. These gatherings are often centered around scripture or prayer, which serve as a prompt for reflection on God’s activity in daily life. Faith sharing is different from bible study. In bible study, we read and analyze the text, seeking intellectual understanding to inform our faith. In faith sharing, we pay attention to how the text has stirred our hearts. We ask, “What might God be saying to me, today, through this scripture?”
At the beginning of the pandemic, parishioners began to gather online for morning and evening prayer. These gatherings have continued on Mondays and Fridays. Participants pray the daily office, and share their reflections. Barb Zientek, a regular participant, says that “there is an openness in discussion and to where the Spirit takes it. It is profound and supportive, and everyone’s view is respected. As the sharing culminates in the Lord’s Prayer and spoken and unspoken prayer intentions, God’s presence is felt as we lift up our needs and thanks.”
The Young Adult Community (YAC) has been coming together for faith sharing for decades. In its current form, young adults gather on Thursday evenings in St. Ignatius Chapel and use the Gospel for the upcoming Sunday as a starting point for a discussion of faith in their own lives. James Hickey comments that “having a dedicated space every week to engage in the beauty, tension, and challenge of the Gospel has led me not just to fulfillment for that hour, but far greater openness to receive the Homily on Sundays.” Conor Supple adds, “In discussing the Gospel with fellow young adults, I have gained valuable perspectives from the views and unique life stories each of us brings to the table.”
Trinity Faith Sharing Groups began as a response to the Ignatian Year invitation to “see all things new in Christ.” The experience was fruitful for parishioners, and so the ministry has continued. Groups meet for 8-week sessions throughout the year to reflect on the intersection between the Sunday readings and daily life. A Fall 2022 participant shared on their evaluation: “Faith sharing has been a huge source of encouragement for me, and our discussions have given me a lot to think about and encouraged me to consider what God might be inviting me to.”
During Advent and Lent at Praying in Sacred Space, parishioners gather online on Saturday afternoons to pray with the Sunday Gospel reading in an Ignatian way. After the guided prayer, participants share from their prayer. Regular participant, Carole Thiele, comments, “It has been not only eye-opening but heart-opening to hear how the teachings of our Lord resonate with the different people who are moved to share their reflections. My spiritual encounters in Praying in Sacred Space are truly heart-felt and heart-filled.”
Might God be inviting you to experience faith sharing? Information about all of these opportunities may be found at trinity.org/faithsharing. Most groups do not require advance registration, with the exception of the Lenten Trinity Faith Sharing groups (register by February 8).