After noticing there weren't many activities geared toward young Catholics in the Orland Park area, Stephanie Thomas and Laura Soppet decided to do something about it.
The two women thought a Bible study group for Catholics in their 20s and 30s would help nurture their faith and bring together other young Catholics. Pastoral staff at Our Lady of the Woods Parish in Orland Park, where the two women are parishioners, embraced the idea.
Each Tuesday at 7 p.m., Thomas and Soppet lead a handful of other church members in a Bible discussion, which also offers the opportunity to share personal insights about readings from the Old and New Testaments. The group uses a DVD, "The Great Adventure: A Quick Journey through the Bible," by Jeff Cavins.
The DVD, which the church already owned, includes a narrative of salvation history from Adam and Eve through the coming of Christ. The group discusses questions from a DVD workbook and participants get to talk about how Bible passages affect them personally.
Each meeting opens with prayer and discussion. The group then watches a 30-minute segment of the DVD and breaks into another discussion. Each person reads Bible verses and then the group discusses questions included in the DVD workbook and various aspects of the readings.
"Sometimes the discussions are straightforward. Other times somebody says something that prompts someone else … it can really incite different things in different individuals as far as what really sticks out for them or really resonates with them," said Thomas, who lives in Orland Park.
While Thomas and Soppet lead the group, they said they have plenty to learn too and try to allow each member to take part in the readings and offer opinions.
"We want people to understand we're there to learn, too," said Thomas. "We don't want people to feel intimidated," she said.
Recently they focused on Abraham, who was asked in the Bible to have great trust in God. The group discussed the ways God asks each of us to trust him, Thomas said. Even though Abraham did not know why God wanted him to do certain things, "through faith and love of God, he did it anyway," Thomas said.
Soppet said while growing up Catholic, she heard stories from the Bible but didn't always think them through the way she is now doing in the group.
"It just kind of blew my mind that when God takes Abraham and says look at all the stars in the sky and number them if you can, this is how numerous your descendants will be," Soppet said. "The Bible study pointed out God took him out in middle of day and asked him to look at all stars."
That small detail showed the importance of Abraham trusting God since the stars weren't visible during the day, Soppet said. "It's a totally new perspective."
Since many parishioners don't have a strong foundation in the Old Testament, Thomas and Soppet said they were glad most of the DVD focused on that segment of the Bible.
"Unless you learn the story of why Jesus had to come, I don't think you really understand why it was necessary he came," Thomas said.
Soppet, who lives in Homer Glen but recently finished graduate school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign after obtaining her undergraduate degree at Illinois State University, said she also enjoyed the camaraderie of the group.
"I came from a really vibrant young adult community being in college the past five years, and I came home and there really wasn't anything in place for young adults," Soppet said. "I really felt that was something that was needed.
"You can complain that it didn't exist or create it yourself."