By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published December 23, 2014
SANDY SPRINGS—The ministry hall of St. Jude the Apostle Church looked like the elves’ workshop the Monday before Thanksgiving as the men’s mentoring group wrapped 1,500 books to give away.
Made up of 60 men, some with their young sons in tow, the group gift-wrapped copies of author Matthew Kelly’s book, “The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic.” With no wrapping paper left after 1,500, they took an additional 500 books home to finish up with their families.
After completing the renewal program, Christ Renews His Parish, and reading Kelly’s book, the men wanted to share its message of evangelization with others at Christmas.
Post-CRHP, many were “on fire for the Church,” said group member Mark Bowen.
While some parishes give away books at Christmastime, hoping to reach the large number of people who come to Mass that day, this is a bit different in that the men funded the project themselves. “Everyone chipped in,” said Bowen.
The men will wear Santa Claus hats and personally give the books to St. Jude families and visitors following each Christmas Mass.
“Let’s hand it to somebody and say ‘Merry Christmas,’” said Bowen of the idea behind the project. “We took it a step further. We just want to make sure that every family gets a book.”
The pastor, Msgr. Joe Corbett, penned a letter of welcome to be included with each copy and joined the group to help wrap. The books also include contact information for anyone wishing to become more involved in parish ministries.
Bowen said they promoted the gifts in December bulletins, and priests celebrating Christmas Masses will make an announcement.
Bowen realizes some may put the book on a shelf and not read it until later. He says that even a 1 percent return on the effort is worthwhile.
“We’re not keeping score,” said Bowen.
The mentoring group gave out books last Christmas and may expand the program to include Easter. “That would be a goal,” said Bowen.
The purpose is to make a personal connection with those who want to be more active in a parish and its outreach, but don’t know how.
According to a 2013 poll by the Pew Research Center, out of the 74.4 million Americans who described themselves as Catholic, about 2.9 million said they were “very involved” in their parish.
Kelly’s book focuses on the four signs of vibrant Catholics, including prayer, study, generosity and evangelization.
Kelly writes that sometimes Catholicism can seem like a very rigid, all-or-nothing plan.
“We need to find small, simple, non-threatening ways for people to explore the faith and grow in their spirituality,” he wrote. “It is true that God wants to radically transform our lives and sometimes he calls us to take a great leap. But most of the time he invites us to make small, continuous improvements.”
The book-wrapping process was not up to Nordstrom standards, admitted Bowen. However, the elves-in-training developed a system to get the job done.
“It was a community-builder for the guys,” said Bowen.
For information on St. Jude the Apostle Church and its ministries, visit www.stjudeatlanta.net.