Little Rock Scripture Study’s Bible Institute marked 25 years over Father’s Day weekend, hosting 125 attendees from 14 states as far away as New York, Minnesota, Delaware and Alaska, as well as Arkansas and surrounding states.
Cackie Upchurch, LRSS director, said the quality of the event’s speaker was one reason for the large number but also the work attendees do to spread the word about Bible Institute back in their home parishes.
“I really think it’s primarily what the people experience and how they want others in their community to experience something similar,” she said. “We have a core of people who’ve come off and on over these 25 years, but we always have new faces and this year we have a lot of new faces.”
One of the long-time attendees, Carl Seim of Cabot, 77, a parishioner of St. Jude Church in Jacksonville, has attended 20 of these events.
“We have top quality speakers all the time,” said Seim, who’s been involved with LRSS programs for 40 years. “I love this weekend because it brings me together with 100 people that I don’t see any other time of the year. I come because of the environment and what I have learned and because it definitely increases my faith.”
This year’s speaker, Father Donald Senior, CP, is president emeritus of Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, where he is also professor of New Testament and a prolific writer and commentator. The subject of his five talks over the weekend was “The Jesus of the Gospels.”
Mary Ballard of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Germantown, Tenn., was persuaded to attend her first event six years ago by a fellow parishioner and now calls the annual gathering “my passion.”
“I just fell in love with it because you meet people from all over,” she said. “I am a convert and I have been reading apologetics literature now for 55 years. The more I feel like I can learn, the better I can defend the faith.”
Dianne Blake of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Hot Springs Village attended the event with her sister, Marilyn Clark from New Hope, Minn. The duo said they were inspired to give the Bible Institute a try after making Arkansas Catholic’s 2011 Holy Land pilgrimage for which Upchurch was a guide.
“Cackie and others were the leaders of that trip and it was fabulous,” said Clark, a cradle Catholic currently attending the Episcopal church. “And then a year later we got a brochure in the mail about this program here and it sounded wonderful.”
“We love the idea of learning about Jesus through the Gospels,” Blake said. “The teaching has been wonderful in the past and we knew it would be this year as well.”
Another longtime duo attending this year — Ed and Jennifer Lemerise of St. Bernard Clairvaux Church in Bella Vista — said there was additional significance attending as husband and wife.
“It’s a good chance to get together and talk about things that are important, but don’t always get attention because we’re too busy with our lives,” Jennifer said. “It recharges the batteries.”
Ed Lemerise added that the weekend also focuses and clarifies the work that the couple believes Jesus is calling them to do in their home parish and kindles the energy to carry that work out in service to others.
“Every time I come to this Bible retreat, I realize that a lot of us in life are carrying our own crosses without realizing that we fashion those crosses ourselves,” he said. “And this (event) helps me realize that’s not the cross Jesus wants me to carry. I’ve got to give him, with his expertise in crosses and his craftsmanship as a carpenter, I’ve got to let him build the cross that he wants me to carry.”
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