On January 14, 2016, members of the Newman Center at Portland State University started the Fragua course, a ministry of the St. John Society. 35 students attended the meeting, which was hosted by a team of 15 members made up of PSU students, parishioners of St. Patrick Catholic Church in Portland, and members of the St. John Society and the Society of Mary. The St. John Society staffs the campus ministry at PSU and St. Patrick’s, and it sends its seminarians to Mount Angel Seminary.
The Fragua course is an outreach program that consists of weekly meetings where people can explore the basics of the Catholic faith. The course’s motto is “Come and See” and is directed to people that are interested in the Catholic faith but don’t have a place to learn more about it. It is also a kickoff for those who have stopped practicing their faith and want to come back.
Each meeting offers worship songs, a talk on a theme, questions to share in small groups and an open and friendly environment for those who are spiritually seeking. The first talk was given by Dan Fitzpatrick, the master of ceremonies of the night. He addressed the question: “Is there more to life than this?” Fitzpatrick is a former member of the OSU Newman Center that lives in Portland and collaborates with several activities of the St. John Society and St. Patrick's parish.
A surprise for several of the attendees was the presence of Diego Valeri, captain of the Portland Timbers and also a parishioner of St. Patrick’s. Valeri shared his testimony of faith: “My whole life I played soccer. Soccer was my life. After I encountered Jesus, he changed my life. He changed my soccer.”
The Simon Benson house, a facility for alumni of PSU, provided the setting for this first session of the course and will host the next meetings. Since the Fragua course is an outreach activity the team wanted to have a neutral place to host the people.
The team's goal was to invite around thirty persons and that these be ones who were far away from the Church. During the team meeting afterwards, the overall feeling for the organizing team was of great joy. Everything went perfect and the expectations for this first night were covered abundantly. Team members shared their hope that the course will be a tool for bringing many to Christ.
Justin Waldron, one of the members of the course’s team, said: “It was a night full of people searching for the truth.”
Fr. Ivan Pertine and Juan Pablo Segura, members of the St. John Society, and Sister Theresa Harrell, a member of the Society of Mary, are involved in the organization of the Fragua course. The three are part of the Newman Center staff.
The Society of Mary is a Private Association of the Faithful that arose at the same time as the St. John Society. Both Societies work in a complementary way in the New Evangelization.