Why Catholic? No, really—Why Catholic? That’s the name of a popular parish program offered by RENEW International, a Catholic ministry organization that has worked under the Archdiocese of Newark since 1976.
RENEW now promotes spiritual renewal programs in over 160 dioceses across the United States, as well as internationally.
At the forefront of the Why Catholic? program is Sister Maureen Colleary, a Franciscan Sister of Peace, who has been involved in RENEW International for 17 years as a pastoral staff member. “Intrepid Sister Maureen,” as some of her associates call her, has traveled all over the country (even by prop plane in Alaska) and to Europe, Asia, and Africa in her work energizing Why Catholic?
Originally from New Rochelle, New York, Sister Maureen has a rich history and connection with the spirituality of Saint Francis, starting with 12 years of Franciscan education.
After graduating from college in 1975, Sister Maureen joined the Franciscan Sisters of Peace, attracted to both the warm hospitality of the sisters and the Franciscan values of conversion, contemplation, poverty, and minority.
These core values “spoke to my spirit and continue to be a source of inspiration for me,” says Sister Maureen.
For some, evangelization might seem like a distant memory from our Catholic past or something only missionaries do in faraway lands. However, allowing our faith to radiate outwardly to the people in our daily lives is fundamental to being Catholic. “We are called by our Baptism to be disciples and evangelizers,” says Sister Maureen.
A key goal of Why Catholic? is to solidify and deepen Catholics’ knowledge of their faith, both for their own benefit and for the purpose of building their evangelizing skills. “Many Catholics have had the experience of having their beliefs questioned or even challenged by friends, family, or work associates. That scenario can shake their own confidence if they don’t have a solid understanding of why the Catholic faith holds certain teachings,” Sister Maureen says.
Covering Catholic beliefs, sacraments, morality, and prayer over 48 sessions, the Why Catholic? program takes place in small groups in the homes of parishioners—a nod to communities in the early Church. In this intimate setting, participants gather to reflect on each faith theme and connect it to Scripture, Catholic tradition, and their own lives.
After soaking in the subtleties and wisdom our faith has to offer, parishioners often feel refreshed about their beliefs and more confident to share them with others. Bolstered by deepened knowledge, participants of Why Catholic? can answer the very question posed by the name of the program— to themselves and those around them.
Not everyone is open to talking about the subject of faith, and it takes a discerning person to recognize the opportunity.
“[Some] are wary of others preaching to them. At the same time, many are hungry for meaning, purpose, and spiritual healing and don’t even recognize it. Interestingly, these ‘seekers’ can be quite open to hearing stories of personal faith and witness,” says Sister Maureen.
“Intrepid Sister Maureen” is glad she took the plunge with RENEW International back in 1997. “My years at RENEW have literally flown by as I have logged over 1.7 million air miles since then.”