Following the first year of use at St. Mary Parish, Burlington, in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Fr. Sember edited the lessons to create an edition for print.
“I was kind of hoping by this year, her second year of teaching the lessons, that she could have a real book in her hands,” he said. “It worked out well.”
The style of his writing was inspired by a fond memory from his childhood.
“My dad (James) used to read stories to us,” explained Fr. Sember. “He would sit on the couch and read ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ and all sorts of books for kids. That was a good experience. I wanted children to be able to have their dad or mom sit and read the book to them.”
Writing for a young age group was challenging, he added.
“I wanted to be able to capture what is the true faith — not missing important parts — in ways that children can understand,” he said. “I had to imagine my godson or nephew listening to the book as it was being read.”
The lessons may also serve as a resource for older readers seeking a simple faith guide.
“There are so many wonderful details of the Catholic faith and it’s sometimes hard to get that sense of what it’s all about and where it’s going,” said Fr. Sember. “A little book like this is good for people to pick up the main points. … My hope is that this will be a starter and (readers) will be inspired to pick up something else to read.”
Book signings were held on Dec. 23 at On This Rock in Oshkosh and on Dec. 31 at St. Catherine Book and Gift Store in Green Bay. Fr. Sember enjoyed interacting with readers.
“One lady bought 10 copies for her friends and family,” said Fr. Sember. “There are so many people who are involved in church, but their children and grandchildren are not. It’s a good invitation to think about church again.
“One of the other inspirations for doing this is that there are a lot of parents who want to teach their children about the faith, but don’t know where to start,” he added. “They understand the faith themselves, but have a hard time explaining it. I hope this puts something in parents’ hands where they can feel that they can work with their kids and teach the faith themselves.”
Discussion questions are included at the end of each lesson. The lessons open with creation and work through the church, including lessons on the Trinity, sacraments, prayer, and Mary and the saints. Fr. Sember said that he had hoped to introduce angels earlier than lesson 11, but “they tied in much better with resurrection and heaven. There is a nice little pattern in there.”
Another book may be in the works when time allows.
“I would like to write a book for confirmation age and adults, something more focused on love and relationship because that is really where the faith reaches the daily life of people,” he said.
Fr. Sember, who was ordained to the priesthood in 2007, has been studying and serving at the Vatican for the past two and a half years. He will soon return to Italy to complete his doctorate in canon law and continue working for the Apostolic Signatura, the highest judicial authority in the Catholic Church other than the pope.
“That’s been a challenge to be away from pastoral ministry, but it’s been a blessing to have time to reflect and pray and write,” he said. “Writing something like this you do need some concentrated time to process and to organize.”
“Twelve Lessons on the Catholic Faith” continues to be available at St. Catherine Book and Gift Store and On This Rock. The book may also be ordered online at www.TauPublishing.com.