This summer lots of folks will be spending more time in their backyards. Some will dive into a swimming pool. Others will settle into a hammock. And there are some who will immerse themselves in their faith. Yes, in the backyard. Well, metaphorically speaking.
Santiago de Compostela Parish in Lake Forest is about to kick off its annual “Backyard Theology” series. The four-week series held on Mondays during July will feel a little like a neighborhood potluck, with parishioners gathering first for a barbecue and socializing, followed by a guest speaker on a faith-related topic. The goal for those attending: faith enrichment.
St. Kilian in Mission Viejo has been holding its own Backyard Theology sessions for the last 20-some years. Writer Karen Meeks noted in an article that appeared in OC Catholic last year that “the event draws an average of 200 guests who show up at the parish hall, bearing dishes or donations to contribute to the barbecue/potluck. Depending on the speaker, the event can draw as many as 300 people.”
Past speakers at St. Kilian have included: Robert Spitzer, president of the Magis Center of Reason and Faith, speaking about “Happiness, Suffering and the Love of God;” Fr. Rusty Shaughnessy, who discussed “Pope Francis and St. Francis: Using our Imaginations to Rebuild Our Church;” and Dr. Kathy Schinhofen, a pastoral counselor whose topic was “Do Unto Your Cat… A Light-hearted (but theologically sound) Reflection on the Golden Rule for Today.”
This year’s Backyard Theology program at Santiago de Compostela kicks off July 10 with a discussion on “Heaven, Hell and Purgatory: What does the Catholic Church and the Bible really teach?” led by Fr. Felix Just. (Who doesn’t want to know more about that topic!) Topics for subsequent Mondays include: “The Importance of Forgiveness: our spiritual and mental anchor” with Deacon Dominick Peloso on July 17. Deacon Steve Greco will lead the July 24 session on the subject of “Conquering Fear.” And finally, the series will close July 31 with Fr. Quan Tran speaking on “Fullness of Grace: How to receive God’s gifts in abundance.”
Other parishes in the Diocese of Orange also offer this uniquely summer experience. Check with your own parish or one nearby. Make your famous potato salad and then head on over to a Backyard Theology evening near you.