July 10, 2020

New study guide helps people ‘process experience’ of suffering in pandemic

By Sean Gallagher

Rejoicing in Suffering with St. PaulThe coronavirus pandemic has caused a variety of hardships for many people, whether physical, psychological, spiritual or economic.

During the lockdown in Indiana, Sean Hussey and Ken Ogorek worked to help Catholics across central and southern Indiana enter with their faith into this time of suffering through the help of the writings of St. Paul.

Hussey, archdiocesan evangelization director, wrote a discussion guide, “Rejoicing in Suffering with St. Paul,” with the help of Ogorek, archdiocesan director of catechesis.

The guide, said Hussey, is meant to help small groups or individuals reflect on four passages from Paul’s letters in which the Apostle writes about the Christian meaning of suffering. It’s relevance, though, he said, goes beyond the pandemic.

“I wanted something that would be applicable certainly to the coronavirus, but also always applicable,” Hussey said. “I wanted a resource that could apply and be helpful beyond this time.”

The guide is simple in its format. There are four sessions, one for each Scripture passage. Each session opens with prayer and a reading of its passage. Sections from the Catechism of the Catholic Church are suggested that can shed light on the Scripture reading. Discussion questions are offered. Finally, there is a closing prayer.

“It is an intentionally simple resource,” said Ogorek. “There’s not a lot of moving parts. We knew that people would need to process this whole experience. We wanted to produce a resource that would help them do that in a way that also helped to enhance their disciple relationship with Jesus.”

Although it was intended to be used by small groups, Hussey noted that it can also help individuals reflect on the Scriptures.

“If it’s used individually, I would recommend using it over four days during private prayer time,” he said. “Use the questions to guide your meditation of the passage.”

At the same time, Hussey encourages people to use the discussion guide in a small group.

“A small group allows for the opportunity to share the fruit with one another,” he said. “There’s a community of believers all suffering, in a certain sense. Sometimes when you’re not actually going through your suffering alone, it helps you to endure it a little bit better with the eyes of faith.”

Hussey hopes the discussion guide can help those who make use of it see the pandemic as “an opportunity to live with greater hope, a hope in things that aren’t seen, and that the things that we see now are temporary. It’s the things that are unseen that are eternal, as St. Paul says.”

“I hope this helps people realize that we can take everything about our lives to God,” said Ogorek. “If you’re suffering or lonely, take it to him.”

(To access “Rejoicing in Suffering with St. Paul,” visit bit.ly/31r9Dzd. For support on how to use the discussion guide, contact Sean Hussey at shussey@archindy.org.)

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