Story by Reagan Scott
LINCOLN (SNR) - Lent begins with Ash Wednesday March 1, and Monday, March 6, marks the beginning of the Lincoln Diocese’s annual “Lenten Series.”
This five-week program at St. Teresa Church in Lincoln will feature speakers from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. every Monday, during the first five weeks of Lent.
This year’s theme will be “Universal Call to Holiness and Mission: The Vocation for the Laity,” a theme inspired by Vatican II and the call of the laity to holiness and mission.
While Father Andrew Heaslip, as director of religious education has been the coordinator of the event for the past three years, he said he was also greatly assisted by Sister Mary Angela, C.K. She helped in finding lay people to speak at each event.
“It’s been an exciting challenge to find faithful lay Catholics who can share their faith experiences with others,” Sister Mary Angela said. “We wanted people who not only embrace their faith but also have a passion for sharing it with others.”
While in the past many of the speakers had been priests, Sister Mary Angela said that this year, she tried to find speakers from a variety of different backgrounds and with different areas of strength.
“In the past, our priests carried out the beautiful witness of the teaching office of Christ through the talks they have given for the Lenten Series,” Sister Mary Angela said, “But this year, we wanted our focus to be ‘from the laity for the laity.’ We wanted to have ordinary Catholics share how Jesus has transformed the way they live out their personal call to holiness, whether as doctors, professors, housewives or professional business people.”
Father Heaslip had similar thoughts.
“The lay perspective is one we need to hear a little more,” he said. “We hope the call to mission and holiness will be invigorated (within those who attend).”
As the series kicks off March 6, J.D. Flynn will be the first speaker for the event. His theme will be “Priests, Prophets, Kings: the Mission of Christ’s Lay Disciples.”
“This comes from the Second Vatican Council, we’re all called to share in Christ’s priestly office, prophetic office, and kingly office,” Father Heaslip said.
On March 13, Dr. Bruce Gfeller will be giving a presentation called “Holiness: Yes, It’s for Cradle Catholics, too!” Dr. Gfeller’s talk will focus on how he ministers the faith as a Catholic doctor, as well as how everyone is called to faith differently.
Blanca Fowler will be discussing Ignatian Discernment on March 20 in her talk, “Discernment of Spirits: Navigating the Path to Holiness,” a topic that, according to Father Heaslip, is very central to growth in holiness.
Joe Keaschall will share his faith journey and experience as a scientist in his talk “A Journey of Faith: From the Cornfield to Street Evangelization” on March 27.
“I’m going to talk about the discoveries and things I’ve learned about creation and expression of genes,” said Keaschall, who has a PhD in plant breeding and genetics and currently serves as a professor of practice in plant breeding and genetics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Keaschall will also share his faith story, how he came to be involved in street evangelization in the Haymarket in downtown Lincoln after growing up a farm boy in central Nebraska.
“I want to challenge people as to how much they’re willing to give their lives to Christ,” Keaschall said. “In our society and culture we want to do things ourselves but if we are sacrificing our lives to Christ, we can do more than we are able to do ourselves.”
Keaschall, who considers speaking at this event as one of God’s calls, draws inspiration from his sister, Sister Mary Michael.
“I draw inspiration from her and her unselfish joy and love of students,” Keaschall said.
The five-part series will conclude with a talk by Dr. Kathryn Benes who will speak April 3. The topic of her talk will be “Healing the Wounded Heart: Psychology or Spirituality?”
“Dr. Benes will help people recognize spiritual or psychological struggles they may have and what areas they can find help or healing in,” Sister Mary Angela said.
For those who are not able to attend the events, all talks will be recorded and available online at the Diocese of Lincoln’s YouTube channel.
All are warmly invited to attend.
“If you’re baptized you should go,” Father Heaslip said. “Those who attend will have a stronger awareness of the importance of our Baptism and Confirmation.”
It is the hope of both Father Heaslip and Sister Mary Angela that hearing from other lay people will inspire listeners to grow in their own holiness.
“Our hope is that the laity who attend this year’s sessions will leave feeling empowered to more fully live out their own vocation to holiness and mission after hearing our speakers,” Sister Mary Angela said. “We want people to feel like this isn’t something that is beyond them, this is something they can do too.”
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