By ERIKA ANDERSON, Staff Writer | Published August 2, 2007
Small group programs have been wildly successful in non-denominational churches throughout the metro-Atlanta area—so successful, in fact, that many young adults have left the Catholic Church because of them.
David Kosko knows about this firsthand. When a friend of his invited him to a local non-denominational small group program, Kosko felt immediately welcomed. It was a place where he could share his personal struggles, where he could grow in faith, and find accountability all in an intimate small group setting.
“If there was something like that in (the Catholic Church), I didn’t know about it,” he said.
Though Kosko returned to his Catholic faith, he knows there are other Catholics who haven’t.
“People are craving this type of community, and unfortunately, they’re going elsewhere,” he said.
But Kosko and a group of Catholic young adults from the Cathedral of Christ the King and the Archdiocese of Atlanta are hoping to draw them back in with their own initiative called “Breathe.”
The name is based on the 20th chapter of the Gospel of John: “So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ And when he had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’”
The steering committee, along with Dorothy Polchinski, director of Young Adult Ministry (YAM) in the archdiocese, has been working on Breathe since March.
Kim Englehardt, 31, who is in charge of membership for CTK Singles, is also on the steering committee for Breathe.
“When David told me about this, it just seemed like a great opportunity to reach people who were really hungry to find a place in the church,” she said. “This is something that helps people find a community within the larger community, so that they’re not just another person at Mass or at a large event. It will help them to become more comfortable sharing and will help to get them more into the Bible, too.”
Young adults, single and married ages 21-40, can register via a link from the CTK Singles Web site. Same-gender groups of a maximum of seven people will be formed by age and location.
At a kick-off for Breathe to be held Aug. 8 at 7 p.m. in the Cathedral Parish Hall, participants will meet their small groups, which will then decide as a group when to meet.
Using a structure based on the book, “Living in the Power of the Holy Spirit: A Catholic Bible Study,” groups will meet for approximately nine weeks and then will gather together again in the larger group for a potluck dinner.
“Our hope is that when we bring all the groups back together, more people will have heard about this and will want to join and then we’ll continue to build upon this Breathe community,” Englehardt said.
Sarah Asbrey, 29, also a member of the Breathe steering committee, agrees strongly with Englehardt that Breathe can be a place for young adults to belong.
“I don’t care who you are—everyone wants to feel needed and like they belong. In an ideal world that desire would be fulfilled by Christ and Christ alone, but the fact of the matter is we don’t live in an ideal world—we live in a fallen world, a world of sin. There are many ways that singles can fill that hole, that desire to belong. It can be sex, substance abuse or any number of ways,” she said. “We are the universal Catholic Church and when any member of the body hurts, I hurt. So I, we, are called to address that hurt, that hole. If we, being the universal Catholic Church, do not provide a healthy, safe, faith-based community in which singles can feel a part of … something or someone else will.”
Kosko is challenging more men to get involved with Breathe.
“I think eventually as men we have a calling to take a stand and we can either take the high road or the low road. We have to realize we can’t do it alone. There are so many viewpoints out there,” he said. “This will give us the support and the structure to help us to take the highest road possible.”
Englehardt said she is excited to see the effects Breathe will have on the archdiocese.
“I am most excited about this changing people’s lives. I know that when I got to the archdiocese in 2000, it took me about four or five years to really find my place here. This is something people are yearning for, and this is a great program to help them take their relationship with Christ to the next level,” she said.
Those interested in the Breathe program must register by Monday, Aug. 6. To register, visit www.ctksingles.org/breathe.php. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.