A love of books compelled Marci Hayes of Our Lady of Good Help Church in Brandon and her 13- year-old daughter to join an online book club sponsored by the Diocese of Burlington.

“A story has a unique ability to span time and connect the reader to the author as well as with all of those who have ever read the story. I found this to be true during the book club,” she said of the weekly April online gatherings to discuss “The Screwtape Letters” by C. S. Lewis.

The book club was born during the Covid-19 pandemic when Michael Hagan, manager of religious education and catechesis for the diocese, sought a fun way to form a community, learn about the Catholic faith and share faith journeys.

“Through reading a 75-year-old tale, I joined others in conversation, prayer and fellowship. I most enjoyed witnessing how a story can bring a community and families together,” Hayes said.

Tricia Sulva of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Charlotte has participated in a variety of classes and presentations that Hagan has offered. “He is wonderful at offering insight into the particular topic, and I always come away with a richer understanding of our faith,” she said. “This [book club] offered an opportunity to still be able to come together as a community and as a way to deepen my faith.”

There were about 20 participants in the free weekly online gatherings; they joined from throughout Vermont and from Florida and California.

“A faith-based book club can be a fun and low-pressure form of Christian accompaniment. Books tend to have a unique way of influencing our spiritual lives,” Hagan said. “As we enter into new characters, stories and worlds, we begin to ask questions that we might not have asked before. A book club allows us to share those insights and questions with other people who are reading the same book on the same journey of faith.”

Sulva said this opportunity “to engage with others way beyond our own backyard is amazing.”

She continued, “Experiencing this online event has heightened my awareness that there are people every-where who I can share my love for God and our beautiful faith with. For me this is extremely comforting. And it fills me with greater hope.”

For information on future book clubs, go to vermontcatholic.org.

—Originally published in the Summer 2020 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.