Monday, December 2, 2013

7 More Questions for Mary Sperry

Mary Sperry is, of course, no stranger to this blog.  She has been invaluable in providing helpful information about various Catholic bible issues over the years, particularly in regards to the New American Bible.  She is Associate Director for Permissions and Bible Utilization for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. She holds a master's degree in liturgical studies from the Catholic University of America and a master's degree in political science from UCLA. Her articles have appeared in numerous publications and she is frequently interviewed on national television and radio programs.  I am happy to invite her back for another "7 Questions" in order to discuss a number of recent projects in which she has been involved. Her most recent book Scripture in the Parish: A Guide for Catholic Ministry is a serious call to all involved in parish life to integrate the Scriptures into the heart of all parish ministries.  

1)I was fortunate enough to write an endorsement for your helpful little book Scripture in the Parish: A Guide for Catholic Ministry published by Liturgical Press.  I am curious as to what your reasons were for writing this book?
The people the the Church calls into ministry – as catechists, liturgical ministers, youth group volunteers, pro-life committee, etc. --  are people who are very motivated about growing in their faith. In many cases, they may not know as much about the Bible as they want to know or as they should know to assist in their ministry. My little book gives them a quick review of what the Church believes about the Bible, how the Church uses the Bible, and some steps for beginning to interpret the Bible with the mind of the Church. Hopefully, reading it will help these ministers feel more confident in their faith and share their knowledge of God’s Word.

2)  I mentioned in my endorsement that your book emphasizes that "scripture should never be an 'add on' or 'extra element' to anything that the Church does, particularly at the parish level, but rather, the Bible must be an integral part of parish life".  So, here we are, more than fifty years since the Second Vatican Council, and I am curious as to what you see as the main problems that hinder the use of Scripture at the parish level by Catholics?
I think most Catholics feel that they don’t know enough about the Bible. To make it worse, they often feel intimidated about learning more. So many of the available resources are either too simple or too technical. People are afraid that their non-Catholic friends know much more about the Bible or Catholics fear that they will misrepresent what the Church believes.

Another issue is that we are a big Church. People get divided by function. That leads some people to think that the Bible concerns primarily priests and catechists and lectors. In fact, every minister who serves God’s people – no matter how – should be well-grounded in the Word of God. The purpose f all ministry is to lead people to Christ. You can’t lead people to Jesus if you don’t know him and you can’t know him if you don’t know Scripture.

3) On the other hand, where do you see areas of growth in Catholic scripture reading since the Council? 
I think Catholics are reading the Bible more (though we don’t have good statistics that allow us to judge these things over time). We know that Catholics are seeking Bible resources in many places. THe Bible and daily readings pages on the USCCB website are always the most popular pages.

The increased use of Scripture in the liturgy has been a big step forward. People are becoming familiar with more and more of the biblical text.

Lectio divina is beginning to take off as a prayer form, leading people to make the Bible a bigger part of their prayer lives.

And catechetical textbooks include much more Scripture than those of the first half of the 20th century. Young people in faith formation are encouraged to read Scripture from their books and from Bibles in the classroom.

4)  Could you talk a little bit about your participation in the recently released Catholic Women's Bible published by OSV?   How did this project come about?
I got an email one day from Jackie Lindsay, a lovely editor with Our Sunday Visitor, asking if I’d be interested in being part of the team. At the time, I only knew who the editor would be. Well, Bible and women – how could I say no?  I got my writing assignments and started to work. Over the months, I got to know the editor, Woodee Koenig-Bricker, quite well. She’s become a good friend. Then I found out that other contributors were women I’d worked with on other projects. My only regret is that we were never all in one room to chat with each other about what we were working on. I’m not sure any of us would have changed a word, but it would have been a great conversation!

5) Do you have any new projects that you working on currently?
I contributed two reflections to Naked and You Clothed Me, a project of Homilists for the Homeless. It’s an ecumenical effort of preachers and writers, tied to the liturgical readings. All of the contributors give their work and 100% of the book proceeds go to charity.

I have a book with Liguori Publications, scheduled to come out just before Lent in 2014. It’s called Real Life Faith: Bible Companions for Catholic Teens.

Then I’ll be working on Liturgy Training Publication’s Sourcebook for Sundays and Seasons for 2016.

Then, I think I need to rest a bit!

6)  Is there anything new to report concerning the revision work on the NAB that was announced last year?
The Board of Editors has been appointed and they are working on principles of translation that will go to the USCCB Administrative Committee for approval. Once those principles are approved, we start bringing revisers on board and start moving forward.

7) Has there been any passages of Scripture that you have found meaningful during this past year?

It’s been a very rough year for me. I lost my father and my uncle.  A dear friend lost her 48 year-old husband. Another friend lost her mom (both had been my guests for Thanksgiving for a few years). A former colleague died at 52. A high school classmate’s daughter is struggling with leukemia. I find that Revelation 21:3-4 has helped a lot.


Jonny said...

Mary, my condolences to you for your loss. Thank you for all of your hard work in the area of Bible and Church life. Are you excited about the upcoming revision of the NAB? My understanding is that the intention is to revise it to be in line with Vatican guidelines for translation and be "liturgically acceptable" if you will. Surely having a uniform Bible text for Mass, LOTH, and personal study will help foster more Bible study and memorization among Catholics. What do you think? Thank you, again. I just got done reading the USCCB book, Sing to the Lord, and I just might read yours next!

hoshie said...

Ms. Sperry,

I'm sorry to hear about your loss. I have a question for you or anyone else here. Should I buy a print NABRE now or wait for the CBA/USCCB to revise the translation again? God bless everyone!

Jonny said...


That is kind of a funny question for me because I would given the same answer to a similar question in 1966 (had I been alive at the time.)

Do you want to have the translation that is going to most resemble the Mass readings? If so, go ahead and buy the NABRE.

I prefer the RSV translation, and would personally recommend the RSV-CE or the NOAB RSV. I do have a NABRE and will also get the new edition when it is released as well, although that may not be for a decade or more.

Perhaps the question is, if I could only have one edition of the NABRE, which one is going to give me the most for my money? Tim, that might make a good post ;)

Timothy said...

Tune back in on Thursday. I somewhat answer that question within a larger post.

hoshie said...


Thanks for the comment! I have the NABRE on my Nook and use it for research for now. I still have the original NAB with the 1970 OT, 1991 Psalms, and 1986 OT. Its annoying to use it when following along with the readings at mass. For day to day use I use the RSV-2CE.