BRIDGEPORT—What do the letters INRI on the Crucifix stand for? In Hebrew, what does “Amen” mean? Who was the first canonized saint from the U.S.? If you have accepted The Leadership Institute’s Family Bible Challenge, you know all these answers—and more.
Now wrapping up its third session, this Challenge has engaged over 2,100 families throughout the Diocese of Bridgeport and beyond with a goal of connecting the faithful with sacred scripture. Through biblical passages, reflection questions, videos, and online trivia, participants are embracing the Challenge’s motto of “Encounter Scripture. Encounter Christ.”
Patrick Donovan, director of The Leadership Institute, said interest in this program has “grown exponentially” since the first session began last spring. “There is a strong desire of people to learn about their faith,” he said. “We want people to open their Bibles.”
Following the success of Seasons 1 and 2 which focused on Lent and Pentecost, respectively, Season 3 has aimed to educate participants on Women in Scripture, which has provided an opportunity for parents like Brenner LeCompte and his wife Kristen to be more intentional in passing on the faith to their young children.
“My older daughter loved the animated video of the Book of Ruth,” said LeCompte, of St. Mary Parish in Ridgefield. “This has been a great opportunity for us. Our kids see that faith is not just one hour on Sunday.”
With a goal of engaging both families and individuals in the Bible, The Leadership Institute sends an email each Sunday with a passage to read and discuss. Quizzes on the material follow on Wednesday. The success of the online trivia, Donovan said, prompted the addition of Catequizem, a new site with less Bible-oriented and more general questions such as those on the Old Testament, the Mass and the Saints.
“I have heard that some families are doing the quizzes at dinner,” said Donovan. “They tell me that no electronics are allowed at the table except on Wednesdays when they do the quizzes.”
These moments for discussion and reflection, whether at dinner, before bedtime, or while in the car, have allowed more time for bonding and togetherness for those participating, such as the Medeiros family from Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Danbury. Pedro Medeiros said he and his wife Hady enjoy reading scripture with their children.
“When we have a busy day and are caught up with work and chores, this gives us a moment when everything can stop and we can read together as a family,” said Medeiros whose five-year-old likes looking at the pictures that accompany the questions. “It keeps scripture close to us, and that’s the best part.”
In addition to these activities, The Leadership Institute held several trivia nights last spring and has been partnering with Catholic high schools to encourage students to assist with writing future questions. Also benefitting from the Family Bible Challenge are religion classes at Diocesan elementary schools, such as those at St. Thomas Aquinas School in Fairfield. Winnie Shay, a sixth and seventh-grade religion teacher, began printing out the reflections last spring.
“I want to be sure my students know how to use their Bibles,” said Shay, who feels these questions and passages are helping them learn their faith. “It’s definitely been enriching.”
As a gift from the American Bible Society, the diocese received 7,500 Bibles in both English and Spanish which have been distributed to those who registered for the Challenge with extra ones going to school children. Maria Ortiz of St. Peter’s Church in Bridgeport said she likes the option of reading passages in both languages.
“Sometimes I read the Spanish version and sometimes the English one. I get to read them twice!” said Ortiz, one of many who is doing the Challenge alone. “I am learning so much more about my Catholic faith. There is always something more to learn.”
As Advent approaches, The Leadership Institute is prepared to launch its next session on November 24 and has plans for a fifth one in the spring. “The response to the Challenge is better than we were hoping for,” said Donovan. “We have to keep in mind that we say parents are the first teachers, but we don’t always give parents the tools they need to articulate their faith.”
With these tools now available, families have the opportunity to be even more purposeful with scripture at home. “We’re all more comfortable with the Bible and our faith,” said LeCompte. “It’s become woven into our daily lives.”
And for those of you still wondering: INRI stands for Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum (Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews), “Amen” means “It is true, so it is,” and Elizabeth Ann Seton was the first canonized U.S. saint.
By Emily Clark