The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock

One Percent Challenge encourages faithful to read Bible

Director of evangelization: ‘I want to help Catholics encounter Jesus in the Word’

Published: October 23, 2018   
Aprille Hanson
Andrew Marra, 11, reads from the Bible with his mother Jody Marra in the courtyard at Our Lady of the Holy Souls Church in Little Rock. The two par-ticipated in the One Percent Challenge to devote one percent of each day, 14 minutes and 24 seconds, to reading the Bible.

Cradle Catholic Jody Marra did not read her Bible regularly for the same reason many Catholics do not dust off theirs — life’s distractions.

“I maybe got my Bible out once every couple weeks. It was very non-specific,” the 42-year-old said. “I just let other things take priority like cleaning or watching TV.”

But for 30 days, she and her 11-year-old son Andrew took out their Bible each evening to read and reflect on the day’s Scripture passage. It was all part of the One Percent Challenge at Our Lady of the Holy Souls Church in Little Rock, a program created by Evangelical Catholic to encourage using 1 percent of their day, or 14 minutes and 24 seconds (rounded to 15 minutes), with Scripture.

“It’s become part of our language as a family now, whereas most Catholics growing up don’t have that language between each other,” Marra said. “… It’s been a tremendous amount of grace for my family. It’s changed how we talk and relate to each other.”

Sam Denefe, director of evangelization and adult faith formation at Holy Souls, began the One Percent Challenge a few years ago, after the parish started an alliance with Evangelical Catholic, a national non-profit that helps colleges, parishes and dioceses implement evangelization programs.

“We believe as Catholics that Jesus is fully present in the Eucharist and also in the Word. I want to help Catholics encounter Jesus in the Word that is life changing.”

According to Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study, only 25 percent of Catholics read Scripture at least once a week.

For the past couple of years, Denefe said there has been good participation in the challenge, which uses the traditional lectio divina style of prayerful reflection. Participants are asked to pay attention to the four R’s:

• After spending time in quiet and asking the Holy Spirit for guidance, read a short Scripture selection “slowly and intently,” Denefe said.

Reflect on the Scripture reading; “Does anything pop out at you, what is the Lord saying to you? Put yourself in the scene,” she said.

Respond by talking to God about what is on your heart.

• Spend time in restful silence with God, following Psalm 46:11, “Be still and know that I am God.”

The most recent challenge ran from Aug. 15-Sept. 15 and had 23 participants. Denefe created a private Facebook group where she’d post the day’s Scripture reading and encourage participants to comment and discuss.

“I wanted to be part of a group at Holy Souls that kind of kept each other accountable,” Marra said, adding she loved meeting new people in the church through the group’s social media page.

Participants received a T-shirt similar to a marathon runners’, with the time “14:24” on it, Denefe said, as well as a sticker.

Separate from the challenge, Denefe said for six weeks, parishioners were challenged to bring their personal Bible to Mass to follow along with the readings, but also to read the day’s Scripture ahead of time.

Marra admits that since the challenge ended, she hasn’t keep up the practice of daily reading, but that she and her son read it more than they used to — at least four to five times a week.

“I just think the one percent challenge taught me that having my Bible in my hands was not part of my daily activity,” she said.

For other parishes or individual Catholics who want to start reading their Bible, the One Percent Challenge is a good tool, Denefe said.

“If you want to know God, because I know he wants to know you, he wants to give you a life-changing encounter, he wants to heal your wounds, give you purpose, to love you. If you want to know him, he gave you a book to get to know him, so he can clearly communicate with you, a divine book, a love letter,” she said. 

For more information about the One Percent Challenge, visit

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