Coffee, Cocoa and Questions
Informal Q&A with the pastor draws a crowd three weeks in a row.
"We offered the first session of Coffee, Cocoa and Questions for three weeks during this Lenten Season. It has met with such success and enthusiasm, we are going to offer it again after Easter, and we plan to make these small three-to-four week sessions a regular part of the parish calendar." Fr. Marc Gagne, Nashua, NH
The need it meets
This forum takes on questions that might otherwise go unasked and unanswered. Catholics today are hungry for answers, and priests can't meet with every parishioner individually.
Communication is the first step in formation. The atmosphere is relaxed and inviting. No question is unworthy!
Where it came from
Fr. Marc Gagne heard about similar events at other parishes and implemented this simple forum at his parish. The motivation was the frequent one-on-one questions that people would ask out of curiosity or a genuine desire to learn. Some of the questions kept coming up. It seemed logical to create an environment where many people at once could benefit from the questions and answers.
How it works
- One night a week for up to four weeks from 7:00PM to 8:30PM.
- It is an open evening gathering with no pre-registration required.
- The parish provides the coffee and cocoa; the participants provide the questions.
- Paper and pencils are also available for participants to write down questions they're not comfortable asking aloud.
- Written questions help the program keep moving if verbal questions go silent.
This inter-generational faith formation, education and ongoing learning experience is open to high school students and adults, filling in the gaps that are left by the particular subjects treated in faith formation classes.
- The parish has seen more inter-generational discussion, learning, and gatherings. It is a wonderful opportunity for relational ministry outside of liturgical worship between the pastor and the attendees.
- At each session, twenty to thirty people attended. Some came every week. A few attended one or two nights as their schedules allowed.
- The ages ranged from 15 to 80.
- The feedback was extremely positive, such as an email that said: "Thanks for the Coffee, Cocoa and Questions sessions, I love them. And, "special thanks for last night session, I really DID want to know more about icons and your explanation was excellent."
- It begins and ends with prayer.
- It is informal in style.
- It's made clear that there are no "dumb" questions.
- Any question that can't be answered is researched and answered the following week.
For a lone priest in a parish of hundreds or even thousands of registered families, the pastor's involvement is key. For parishes blessed to have more than one priest, any priest's presence would work, pastor or parochial vicar.
How to implement it
Because the work actually occurs during the evening session, it's just a matter of choosing a series of dates and times that work within the parish calendar; publishing the information in the bulletin and parish website; and making sure that someone is prepared to make the coffee. It's that simple.
An example of the bulletin ad and more details are currently available on the website of Immaculate Conception Parish in Nashua, NH, in the archived (February 2008) online bulletin, and the current article describing the experience on the website.
Fr. Marc Gagne is pastor of