By JESSICA ABLE, Record Staff Writer
BARDSTOWN, Ky. — A new program offered by the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral in Bardstown, Ky., aims to engage Catholics outside of church.
It is called “Theology on Third,” a reference to the program’s location on Third Street in Bardstown, and is designed to reach out to Catholics of all ages in an informal setting,
according to Geoffrey Surtees, a parishioner at St. Joseph.
About 75 people gathered at Kreso’s Restaurant to attend the first installment of Theology on Third on the Sunday following Thanksgiving. Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz led the night’s talk, titled “Marriage and Family in Today’s American Culture.”
Surtees, who is one of the organizers of the program, told those in attendance that “as we begin the Year of Faith, we invite Catholics to reorient themselves to Christ and to his church.”
Pope Benedict XVI established the Year of Faith, “dedicated to the profession of the true faith and its correct interpretation,” to run from Oct. 11, 2012 to Nov. 24, 2013.
The archbishop began the discussion by talking about his role at the recent Synod on New Evangelization in Rome and how all Catholics are called to be agents of the new evangelization.
“The new evangelization is not about asking us to do one more thing,” he said. “It’s about doing less of certain things and more of other things.”
At the core of the new evangelization, the archbishop said, is the person of Jesus Christ.
“In fact, at the core of a strong, healthy Catholic marriage is the person of Jesus Christ,” he said. “The closer a spouse gets to Christ, the less that spouse thinks about themselves.”
The archbishop said that while he is not an expert on marriage, he is a strong advocate and someone who is deeply passionate about promoting strong marriages and families.
“You,” he said gesturing to the audience, “if you are married you are the experts.”
Archbishop Kurtz offered several things Catholics can do to promote healthy marriages in today’s society.
First, married couples need to become advocates for strong marriages, he said.
Secondly, couples who wish to marry in the church should have better marriage preparation, the archbishop said. “We need you to have an influence in the lives of these young couples, without being pushy.”
Another way to promote strong marriages and families is to be involved in marriage enrichment programs, he noted.
“The work of the church is to help and support married couples, and we need you to help with that,” the archbishop added.
The archbishop also briefly discussed the Blessing of the Child in the Womb, the first blessing of its kind in the United States. The blessing, which originated with Archbishop Kurtz when he was bishop of Knoxville, Tenn., was written by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2008. The Vatican approved it in March.
“We need you to be able to reach out to someone who is pregnant and invite them to the blessing and talk to them about their concerns or worries. “It’s a great first step toward baptism,” he added.
(A Blessing of the Child in the Womb service will be offered to expectant parents Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. at the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral.)
Colette Hill, a parishioner of St. Dominic Church in Springfield, Ky., said she attended the evening’s talk because she wanted to hear what the archbishop had to say about marriage.
“We need to build up marriage. We need people to have strong marriages,” she said.
Hill also said she’s excited about the new Blessing of the Child in the Womb.
“I think the blessing of the unborn child could be the start of something big. If we get babies blessed while they are still in the uterus, good things can come from that,” Hill said.
Mary Manion said she was pleased to hear the archbishop’s affirmation of strong marriages and family and to hear the charge to lift up other married couples.
“I was happy to be told of my duty to go forward and promote the fidelity of marriage,” the St. Joseph parishioner said.
Surtees said he hopes the first installment of Theology on Third will lead to additional discussion nights in the future. Currently the group does not a have a date set for the next talk but those interested in the program should ‘Like’ the group’s page on Facebook (facebook.com/theologyonthird) to learn more about future events.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly quoted Colette Hill as saying “If we get babies baptized…” The quote now correctly reads “If we get babies blessed…” The Blessing of the Child in the Womb in no way replaces the Sacrament of Baptism.