Published diciembre 13, 2007
A convert to Catholicism, Lynne Sterritt has enjoyed her years as a middle-school catechist and is now the author of her first book geared for this age group in a format her pupils like—puzzles.
“Discovering the Treasures of the Mass” illustrates Sterritt’s desire to better explain the Mass to this age group and is geared for use in the classroom or at home.
“I wanted to develop something that was fun and challenging, and that would describe why we do everything we do. There is a reason for everything we do and I wanted them to understand that throughout the Mass. Then, they’ll be able to pay attention better and focus on the content of the liturgy once they grasp the meaning.”
The book is separated into two parts (The Introductory Rite/Liturgy of the Word and The Liturgy of the Eucharist/Concluding Rite) with a total of 28 steps youth are asked to complete.
“I tried to offer a lot of variety so they wouldn’t get bored,” said Sterritt, a parishioner at St. Brendan Church, Cumming. “Some are easy, some are difficult.”
Sterritt purposefully varied the level of difficulty, understanding that students would be more apt to ask their parents or each other to work through parts of the book together. “It gets the community involved,” she said.
How the information is ultimately applied is left up to parents, but Sterritt recommends perhaps taking the book to Mass at times so that the information is reinforced by what the youth witness during the liturgy.
The journey to Catholicism for the first-time author, raised Methodist, started when she began dating her husband, a “cradle Catholic,” and attending Sunday Mass with him.
“I really felt home again,” she said. “It was everything like what I was raised in my youth to believe.”
She waited for a time after marrying to go through the RCIA program. Upon entering the church, she naturally gravitated to music ministry given previous experience until the day came years later when the mother of two boys also was asked to become an assistant in the parish’s religious education program, a requirement of parents with children in the program.
“It scared me to death,” she recalled. “I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh! What if they ask me something I don’t know? I wasn’t raised Catholic.’ It still was new. I really started researching and got more into the church’s background, history and the liturgy. I wanted to be prepared.”
Over time, she went from being an assistant to a teacher of middle school students.
“I love that age,” she said. “They all know how to read, and they’re still young enough to enjoy art and want to join in. I like finding what’s challenging and fun for them. Their minds absorb so much, and they’re really learning. I really wanted to introduce them to the light of Christ within them, to recognize it and grow in faith.”
Eventually the family moved to the Atlanta area, and Sterritt was praying for guidance in what area of ministry to undertake at St. Brendan, a new church they eventually joined. Then the lightening bolt struck.
“At church during Mass I saw a young boy playing a video game. It hit me. God was saying, ‘Write a book so (middle-schoolers) understand the liturgy and enjoy it, celebrate it, and so they know that it is for them as well as their parents.’ So I got started.”
Sterritt recalled thinking that there was not a lot on the bookshelves for middle-schoolers when it came to helping them better understand the Mass. “Every year I would hear the same thing (when teaching): ‘Mass is boring,’ ‘It’s just for our parents, not for us.’ I really wanted them to understand that the Mass is for all of us.”
First Sterritt undertook the project in secrecy from her husband and two sons, now 18 and 22. “I know this sounds crazy,” she recalled saying when her husband finally asked her why she was spending so much time at the computer. He was very supportive of the project, she added.
“I felt God calling me to do this. I couldn’t believe what he wanted me to do. ‘I am a simple member of the laity. I don’t have a theology background,’” she thought.
But she continued to research and open herself to inspiration.
“It was like the Spirit of God gives you the idea. I would go out walking and another great idea would come along.”
After a few years of intermittent scribbling on pad and paper, Sterritt finally realized she needed to “buckle down” and complete the project. She emerged with the manuscript in August 2005 not knowing where to go next. Fortunately the local library was offering a session for first-time writers and how to get published, which she attended. “It really scared me. I thought, ‘This is impossible.’”
But she composed an engaging cover letter, as instructed, and researched publishers, coming up with a list of three she thought would be interested in her book. She sent out one letter and was rejected but the other two publishers expressed interest and, finally, Twenty-Third Publications of New London, Conn., offered to print the book, which was released in 2007.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she recalled. “All during this process I was praying.”
These days she remains busy as she works to complete a certification program through Spring Hill College. “I’m still kind of getting out there with it,” she said.
Her classes have spurred other ideas for books. She is grateful for having followed God’s promptings and responded, seeing the fruit of her labor for those at an age she was called to serve.
“Kids feel so much pressure today,” she said. “Peer pressure can be a difficult thing and they need a foundation. When they experience moments like that and think nobody cares for them or that they’re all alone, I want them to know that that’s not true. God is there. If you’re upset with your friends or parents, go to God always. He will listen and comfort and help you through what you’re experiencing.”
“Discovering the Treasures of the Mass” is published in paperback by Twenty-Third Publications. The book sells for $15.95.