Four-year study program inspires southeast Michigan Catholics to encounter Jesus in the word and grow as missionary disciples

LAPEER — Despite eight years of Catholic school and several adult Bible studies, Arthur Even, a parishioner at St. Andrew in Rochester, worried he “still wasn’t getting it.” He heard the Catholic Biblical School of Michigan (CBSM) was offering a course at his parish and decided to enroll.

A year later, a friend asked Even, “how’s that Bible study stuff going?” His reply? “I’m finding out about all the things I always said I believed.”

Uncovering the roots of faith through Scripture is at the heart of CBSM. This lay apostolate invites Catholics to encounter Jesus through the Bible and grow as missionary disciples — fueled by daily connection to God in his word. A survey of CBSM alumni found: 91% shared their faith with family and friends, 40% increased participation in parish ministries, 36% became involved in evangelization and 34% took on new roles in catechesis.

“Sacred Scripture is one of the ways God reveals Himself and His plan to us,” Colleen Vermeulen, director of mission and instructor for the Catholic Biblical School of Michigan, told Detroit Catholic. “No matter where people are spiritually, they tend to have questions about the Bible. CBSM brings the treasure of biblical scholarship out of an institutional university/seminary setting, and into parishes, accessible to all … When we grow in our understanding of God's word, we're more ready to share Jesus, the center of all Scripture, with the world.”

Sherri Sullivan, of St. Andrew Parish in Rochester, shares insights from the readings with her small group. Pictured left to right are group members Natalie and John Moll of SS. Peter and Paul in North Branch; Laura McLean of St. Cornelius Parish in Dryden; and Peggy Collins, also of St. Cornelius.

Catholic Biblical School of Michigan class cohorts meet weekly at parishes throughout southeast Michigan. By the end of four years, participants read, study and discuss the Bible in its entirety:

• Year A — Genesis to 2 Maccabees
• Year B — The Gospels and Paul’s letters
• Year C — The prophets and Judith, Tobit and Esther
• Year D — Wisdom literature, John’s writings, the Catholic epistles and Revelation

Students prepare by prayerfully reading and reflecting on assigned selections at home. Class begins with small group discussion in which students are encouraged to share reflections and ask questions. Then they listen to a lecture from their instructor (all CBSM faculty have graduate-level theology degrees) about the next week’s reading to learn more about cultural, historical or literary background to deepen their understanding.

“I think it's the variety of ways we engage with Scripture that helps each person become more confident in understanding how God speaks to them,” Vermeulen said. “Talking about our own struggles and insights helps us see how God guides us and how the Bible is relevant to our modern lives. Many of the opportunities to introduce others to Jesus come in ‘small groups,’ maybe co-workers at a lunch table, or one's family. Practicing the art of discussion and accompaniment in small groups prepares us to share our faith with the world.  

“The involvement of faculty from Sacred Heart Major Seminary is important because they bring a depth of knowledge and expertise to engage with questions in a way one-way communication from a DVD or book doesn't provide. The instructor speaks as a fellow disciple of Jesus, so it's not purely academic, but personal.”

Al Landosky of Immaculate Conception in Lapeer, appreciates the depth of knowledge offered through the Catholic Biblical School of Michigan and how it helped him recognize connections between Scripture and the Church.
Mary Bennett of Immaculate Conception Parish in Lapeer prepares to share her reflection with group members.

Susan Schudt is the instructor of a fourth-year class cohort that meets on Monday evenings at Immaculate Conception Parish in Lapeer. She is a parishioner at St. John Vianney in Shelby Township and started teaching at the encouragement of one of her professors, Peter Williamson, S.T.D., who serves on the CBSM board.

“It’s a tremendous responsibility to teach the Bible through a Catholic lens,” Schudt said. “We believe God reveals Himself to us through Scripture and tradition. CBSM encompasses both. I want to help people see how they can live the truth of Scripture in every moment.”

This has been the greatest change John Moll observed since enrolling in the Catholic Biblical School of Michigan.

“When I let the word of God in, it gives me perspective,” said Moll, who joined the Lapeer cohort with his wife, Natalie, both members of SS. Peter and Paul Parish in North Branch. “Big problems aren’t so big anymore, and the good times get better. I’m learning to turn things over to God and do my best to follow his lead.”

Allan Landosky appreciates the depth of knowledge offered through CBSM and how it has helped him recognize connections between Scripture and the Church.

“The depth of the information and additional ancillary study were a significant step in helping me understand the Old Testament and its relationship to the practice of my faith,” said Landosky, from Immaculate Conception, who enrolled with his wife, Diane.

“I previously considered myself a New Testament-only Catholic, but now I understand the foundation of the message, especially as it is read at Mass and through the liturgical year. I no longer pray generally, but more specifically, thinking about what I am saying, and thanking God for the wonderful lifetime of gifts I have received.”  

Facetime technology allows Anne Stouffer of Holy Family Parish in Novi to participate in small group discussion with her Lapeer cohort. Pictured (left to right) are group members Dave and Diane Ulman of St. Cornelius in Dryden; Janet Engelman and Joanne Ruddock, both of Immaculate Conception Parish in Lapeer.

Sandra Phillips also has noticed changes in her prayer life.

“I find myself thanking God more for blessings in my life, especially this year as we covered the Psalms,” said Phillips, who belongs to St. Cornelius Parish in Dryden. “When you are able to look at your past and focus on events, you begin to see where God had a hand in your life. It makes you more aware spiritually.”

Patty Klecha, from St. Christopher Parish in Marysville, credits CBSM for helping her decide to stay in the Church. She had been part of a neighborhood Bible study that challenged her to abandon Catholicism.

“Prior to these classes, I was trusting that I was doing the right thing by staying Catholic,” Klecha said. “Now I understand my faith — as fully as one can — and CBSM has enabled me to facilitate study groups for those who desire to know Scripture.”  

Mark Hill, a member of St. Joseph Parish in Trenton, also feels better prepared to evangelize and defend his beliefs.

“The other day, a Jehovah's Witness came to my door,” Hill said. “After a short conversation, they left with the comment, ‘It's obvious you know a lot about your faith.’”

Learn more about the Catholic Biblical School of Michigan

For more information about CBSM, visit New cohorts are added each year with options at parishes throughout southeast Michigan and online.