Stephanie Gapsiewicz never purposely meant to abandon her Catholic faith.
“One thing seemed to happen after another,” she said. “And it sort of got shoved to the back burner.”
Life unfolded with demanding nursing studies at college. Marriage. The birth of a son.
But the 35-year-old Gapsiewicz has found her faith anew partly after reading the book, “Rediscover Catholicism,” by Matthew Kelly.
She returned to church — specifically, Columbus’ St. Bartholomew Catholic Church — about 18 months ago. That was to attend the Rite of Catholic Initiation for Adults for new believers, since she never was actually confirmed in the denomination years ago.
Gapsiewicz has been helping promote St. Bartholomew’s Lenten class, “Rediscover Catholicism,” meant to fan the flames of faith for longtime followers and to spark new curiosity among others. The free, six weeks of Monday gatherings begin Feb. 18. It had already attracted more than 325 enrollees by the end of January. One group will meet 10 a.m. to noon and another 7 to 9 p.m. at St. Bartholomew.
Kathy Davis-Shanks, the parish’s coordinator of adult faith formation, said she’s excited by the interest. But she’s not particularly surprised, since she cites figures showing that Catholics are the largest religious group nationwide.
“And people say that, arguably, the second-largest religious group consists of fallen-away Catholics,” she said. “Part of what we’re saying to them now is, ‘Come home.’”
Davis-Shanks, who heard author Kelly speak in Greensburg a few years ago, said the upcoming program has been heavily promoted from the pulpit and elsewhere at St. Bartholomew.
Gapsiewicz guesses that people such as her appreciate the fact that Kelly’s book offers down-to-earth explanations of beliefs, from the celebration of Mass to the praying of the rosary, a meditation on the life of Jesus and Mary.
The writer cuts to the heart of the matter in the book’s opening pages. He focuses not on a pillar of Catholicism, but instead a staple of Christianity: Jesus’ sacrificial death for all believers. Kelly simply sets the scene in the modern world by describing people waiting to be saved from a horrible disease killing thousands.
Then, a father discovers that his only son’s pure, untainted blood holds the cure. The son must die so others can live. Yet once people are saved, most don’t bother showing up at a ceremony to honor the son’s contribution. Others come, but sleep through the gathering.
“We have forgotten our story,” Kelly writes.
He points out that the church, flawed and scarred as it has been, daily feeds, clothes, nurtures, doctors and educates more people “than any other institution on the face of the Earth could ever hope to.”
“It’s an eye-opener,” Gapsiewicz said of the book she read in 2011.
She liked it so much that she gave it to her father, a lapsed Catholic who hadn’t been to church in more than 30 years. He just finished it and also will be returning to church.
Gapsiewicz hopes to see others do the same — or pursue their faith with renewed fervor.
“There has been a lot of negative attention that some parts of Catholicism have received,” she said. “And I know some people have fallen away from the church because of some very unfortunate and horrible things that have happened.
“But we should be careful to make sure that all that doesn’t overshadow the entire faith.”