Young Catholics are getting a deeper religious education than their parents - so, to bring adults up to speed, a pastor of two Schenectady parishes plans some enlightening homilies for the next year.

The "catechesis refresher program" at St. John the Evangelist and St. Anthony's parishes in Schenectady aims to cover basics of the Catholic faith, deepen parishioners' relationship with God and promote involvement in the Church.

The monthly homily series is being launched this month, inspired by the Albany Diocese's three-year "Amazing God" evangelization process currently underway. The homilies will simply be longer than usual to offer extra religious instruction.

Topics include the Creed, sacraments, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the rituals of Mass, conscious prayer, finding a vocation in the Church and learning to take Catholic beliefs to the public square.

"Everyone will leave at the end of the year with a deeper understanding of what it means to be Catholic and share the faith with others," promised Andrew Krakat, chairman of the combined liturgy committee at the parishes and a social studies teacher at Catholic Central High School in Troy.

Coming home
He hopes the series will "rekindle or spark new or re-found enthusiasm" for the faith, draw lapsed Catholics back to the Church and even attract newcomers.

Mr. Krakat said his 20-member committee had been discussing ways to enhance the two parishes' experience with the Amazing God evangelization initiative for at least a year. St. John the Evangelist and St. Anthony's have hosted speakers and a retreat to coincide with Amazing God, but believed they could do better.

Realizing a retreat-like homily series would reach the most people, Mr. Krakat collaborated with Rev. Richard Carlino, pastor, to map out the topics. Father Carlino will try to connect the mini-lectures with Sunday readings and give the special talks at least once at every Mass at each church. Retired priests usually assist him in celebrating nine weekend Masses.

So far, parishioners have welcomed the new program.

"Many feel it's necessary," Mr. Krakat said. "We oftentimes don't really take the time to take a step back and assess [our faith]."

Prayers can become second nature and lose their meaning, Mr. Krakat said - and many Catholics don't know how to defend aspects of the faith, like devotions to Mary and saints and the meaning of the Eucharist, when challenged.

"Most of this, everybody's learned at some point," Mr. Krakat said. "But oftentimes we need to be reminded of it."

One of the topics, "Vestments: Outward Signs of What We Believe," will explain the meaning behind a priest's stole and chasuble, the baptismal garment and altar servers' vestments. It will also address - diplomatically - things laypeople should consider when choosing an outfit for Mass.

Dress for success
"There's an appropriateness of dress for every occasion," Mr. Krakat said, adding that parish leaders don't want to isolate or judge anyone for clothing choices; they're grateful for mere attendance. But the homily "could be a way of just gradually nudging people" to remember what they're celebrating when they come to church each week.

Mr. Krakat said other priests have put on similar homily series, but this might be the first year-long attempt. He hopes the program will promote more unity among St. John's and St. Anthony's, which have consolidated daily Masses and Holy Week liturgies in addition to collaborating in other areas of parish life.