HOW DID A SEMINARIAN GET THE NFP MESSAGE OUT TO THE ENTIRE DIOCESE? “BE CAREFUL, IT MAY TURN YOUR LIFE UPSIDE DOWN”
"BE CAREFUL, IT MAY TURN YOUR LIFE UPSIDE DOWN"
What is going on in the Diocese of Bismarck, ND?
"This is Bishop Zipfel inviting you to listen to the incredible conversion story of an ordinary housewife who discovered what God’s call to holiness meant in her life. I pray that this story will touch your heart as it has touched mine, but be careful—it may turn your life upside down." So begins the introduction to a special version of Patty Schneier's CD presentation "'Prove It, God'...and He Did" recently sent to every Catholic home (those registered in a parish) in the entire Diocese of Bismarck, North Dakota.
How did this amazing project come about? Well, for those of you who have heard Patty Schneier's beautiful and powerful testimony of how God used the daily Mass readings to change her heart and mind about contraception, you may understand how a listener would want to share Patty's testimony with others. This is just how seminarian Russ Kovash felt.
Russ is a seminarian for the Diocese of Bismarck attending Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis. He was given a copy of Patty's CD by his good friend Craig Holway, a member of Patty's home parish. One day on a long drive to a parish where he was helping out, Russ listened to the CD. He says that within the first ten minutes, he was hooked. Within twenty to thirty minutes he was crying, and by the time he reached the parish, he was weeping. "Patty's message resonated with me," he says. The beginning of her story doesn't even talk about the issue of contraception but is about the basic call to holiness that applies to each one of our lives. Patty and her husband's courage in opening their hearts to what God was saying about a difficult issue in their lives inspired Russ to relook at some issues in his own life that he says he had been tempted to brush aside like Patty: "I'm a good Catholic. Why doesn't God go pick on someone with more serious sins?"
Soon Russ was handing out copies of "Prove It, God," and he thought, "I wish every Catholic family could hear this!" The response of those to whom he gave the CD confirmed his own powerful experience of hearing Patty's testimony, which made him desire even more to share her story. One person to whom he gave a copy was his Bishop, the Most Reverend Paul Zipfel. The Bishop's thank you letter soon after called Patty's testimony "extraordinary" and commented: "Everyone needs to hear this message." This started the wheels in Russ' head turning. He and his vocations director Father Tom Richter, who had also been greatly moved by the CD, started brainstorming. At first their hope was to get a copy of the CD into the hands of every childbearing-aged couple in the diocese, but then Russ wondered, "Why only those of childbearing years? Everyone needs to hear this message. We are the mystical body of Christ and need to help each other out."
After calculating that to distribute the CD to each of the 24,000 Catholic households in the diocese would cost about $30,000, it was time to go to the Bishop. Russ asked him, "As the Shepherd of our diocese, if money were not an issue, would you like every family in the diocese to hear this message?" Bishop Zipfel's reply: "Yes, I would."
So Russ and Fr. Tom went to work raising funds. The response from those they approached was one of great support and enthusiasm, and, within two months, the pair and their helpers had raised $30,000, all from generous parishioners in the Diocese of Bismarck. Russ says that he was only a willing instrument of the Holy Spirit in a project that began snowballing and was confirmed every step of the way.
In October, thousands of CDs were mailed out of Bismarck with a letter and special audio introduction by Bishop Zipfel. Patty Schneier also came to speak the weekend before the mailing, first at a Catholic conference in Bismarck/Mandan and then in Russ' hometown of Dickinson. The Bishop even gave a tag for the flyer they used to advertise: "If you listen to the story of Patty Schneier you might find yourself challenged to wrestle with God…. Are you prepared?"
The response thus far from this mass mailing has been incredibly positive. A pharmacist who heard the message isn’t sure if he can continue dispensing contraceptives and asks for prayers for courage. A non-Catholic doctor who listened to the CD three times has said that it has contributed to his interest in becoming Catholic. One husband says that he has some tough decisions to make in his marriage. Two women in the diocese told their friend (a One More Soul customer who passed it on to us) that they’ve decided they need to start using NFP.
When asked if he was surprised at the response, Russ responded, "When we're given a counterfeit, we don't always recognize it as such. But upon realizing that the real deal is out there, I think people become hungry to grasp it and go after it." -- By Kristie Wellmann
(For copies of this CD, go to www.OMSoul.com, or call 1-800 307 7685.)
Fr. Matthew Habiger OSB