By Peter G. Sánchez
HADDON HEIGHTS — On Sept. 8, a wine and cheese open house kicked off the start of a new venture in the Diocese of Camden, a place to provide evangelization and spiritual formation to people of diverse backgrounds.
The Collegium Center for Faith and Culture (CCFC), located on the White Horse Pike here only a few blocks from St. Rose of Lima Parish, will “help to introduce people to the beauty of the Catholic Church and augment their faith in God,” said Father Tim Byerley, co-founder of the center and pastor of Mary, Queen of All Saints in Pennsauken.
The center’s upcoming events include an “Ask the Priest” night on Oct. 5, a coffee house on Oct. 18, and “The Persecuted Church of England: The Truth Behind Bloody Mary and Queen Elizabeth,” presented by Father Joseph Szolack, pastor of Infant Jesus, Woodbury Heights, on Oct. 24.
Other events being planned include a lecture series on family life, prayer, and evangelization, as well as coffee houses, movie nights and art shows.
The CCFC, an independent, nonprofit, tax-exempt organization, founded by Father Byerley and Caren Marchione when the two were part of a prayer group, began as a place where young adults could gather for prayer, fellowship and dialogue, in “a warm, inviting, non-institutional” atmosphere that “leads (one) to the heart of Jesus, and to an appreciation of Christian culture,” he said.
The Collegium Center itself was created by Marchione.
In attempting to reach the unchurched, Father Byerley knows that “you have to appeal to them on a human level first, before the spiritual level.”
“We want to make their encounter with Catholicism a beautiful and fraternal experience which reflects the God of mercy,” he said.
A location for the center was found at 301 White Horse Pike, the site of a former doctor’s office.
Recently, Father Byerley tapped Brenda Quinn to be the center’s director of operations.
“I’m excited to get this mission going,” she told the mix of young and old gathered at the wine and cheese party.
Renovations, which include a meeting space with chairs and tables, a gathering area with comfortable seating and a fireplace, and a lending library, are some of the features of the new center.
Volunteer-led, the CCFC is dependent on donations. Due to the generosity of others, the building itself is fully paid for, Father Byerley said.
For more information, visit the Collegium Center for Faith and Culture’s Facebook page, or contact the CCFC at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 856-534-0400.