The nonprofit organization, Theology of the Body Cleveland, hit the ground running as one of the first approvals of ministry in 2020 from Archbishop-designate Nelson Perez. Hosting their first introductory study the last week of January, organizers welcomed 50 students and five guest speakers for the daylong course.
This year, Theology of the Body was added to the Catholic school curriculum for grades K-8. Since the announcement, teachers, parents and Catholics throughout Northeast Ohio have sought out tools, retreats and resources to gain a deeper understanding. As momentum grew, a group of faithful Catholics collaborated to form the new ministry.
The mission of TOB CLE is to support Catholics within the diocese in learning Pope St. John Paul II’s explanation of Christian anthropology. As people learn about the beauty and complementarity of celibate and marital love, Catholics will grow in their ability to live a Christian life.
In a letter to pastors, Archbishop-designate Perez encouraged parishes within the diocese to utilize the platform that TOB CLE provides.
“Theology of the Body Cleveland is a newly established apostolate. It is important to note that Theology of the Body is not a presentation of new truths of our faith, but, instead, it organizes perennial truths into a portrait of God’s plan for the salvation of humanity,” he wrote in the letter.
Jen Ricard is executive director for the ministry. “When I began studying TOB 15 years ago it changed the direction of my life and I am filled with gratitude that now, as executive director of TOB CLE, I get to share this throughout our diocese,” she said.
The first TOB CLE event was a one-day course held at St. Bernadette in Westlake. Those attending the first course included Catholic school teachers, PSR instructors, youth ministers and parents seeking to be better equipped to share the faith with their children. All had an interest in knowing the Church’s teachings on life, marriage and sexuality.
The one-day course consists of four different lectures on TOB with discussion and a question and answer session. The first presentation is given by priests in the diocese and provides an explanation of the importance of the teachings. The second talk is given by young adults who have been trained at the TOB Institute and covers Pope St. John Paul II’s biblical reflection about the story of our creation, fall and redemption. The third talk focuses on eternal destiny in union with God as well as discussion about celibate love. Ricard provides the final talk which includes a reflection on marriage as a sacrament and sexual union, the sign of marital love.
“At the course,” said Ricard, “I watched as attendees had their ‘aha moment’ and were able to see God’s beautiful plan for their lives and honestly, there is nothing better than that.”
Registration is open for the upcoming March session. To learn more, visit TOBCLE.org