An interview with Carol Kloss, a leader in the new “Scripture School” movement.
As Pope Francis continues to lead the Church back to essentials, one might ask: what is more essential to learning about Jesus Christ and the often-unrecognized trajectory of salvation history? Beyond the three-year series of readings in the lectionary, how can a modern yet genuinely Catholic understanding of the Bible be brought to everyone in the Church? To learn more about this topic, I interviewed Carol Kloss, scripture scholar and pioneer in implementing programs of Bible study called “Scripture Schools.”
Carol Kloss grew up in the ‘60s, during Vatican II and its implementation. Her neighborhood on the northwest side of Chicago was solidly Catholic, her parish unique: adjacent to a monastery with a swimming pool and apple orchard, a grade school with over 1,000 students, activities every night of the week, a credit union on site, and a bowling alley with 4 lanes and a bar where (male) parishioners could spend time after work.
After high school, she attended the University of Chicago and graduated with a major in Art History. Later on, a U.S. Army specialist, she learned Russian language and culture, and later worked as a human resources director in the U.S. Air Force. Kloss lived in different parts of the country and furthered her academic studies in a doctoral program in finance.
“Like many Catholics,” Kloss said, “I dropped away from the Church as a young adult. In my 30s, while going from one place to another on a college campus in Fort Collins, Colorado, a man with a box of these little Bibles handed one to me. Several years later, I actually opened the Bible – miniscule print and all – and read some of the psalms and the Gospel of St. John. I thought about half of the psalms had something good to say, and I had a sense there was a lot more to the Gospel than I could understand. I went to a parish for the first time in a long time and asked the Director of Adult Faith Formation where I could study the Bible. He told me about the Denver Catholic Biblical School.”
During the next decade, Kloss devoted her time to academic studies and then teaching about the Bible. Later, while working for the Archdiocese of Chicago, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops requested that Kloss author a study on the best practices involved in establishing scripture schools in dioceses and parishes across the United States. Here are her thoughts on her own faith journey and ministry as a scripture scholar.
What was your path, from Fort Collins to becoming a scripture scholar?
When I moved to Denver, I enrolled in the Catholic Biblical School, a four-year weekly faith and learning program covering all 73 books of the Catholic Bible. At the end of each year, I wasn’t sure if I would continue, but I always did. By the time I completed the program, I knew I wanted (and needed) more study. I never thought of ‘doing anything’ with this study; all I knew by then is that these texts are indeed revelatory of God at many levels, and in many ways I felt compelled to study them as much as I could. (This program was authored by Macrina Scott, O.F.M. as the Catholic Biblical School Program, published by Paulist Press. There is also a good summary of the current Denver Program.)
When the time was right for my family, we moved to Chicago so I could attend Catholic Theological Union for graduate study of the Bible. I received a Master of Arts in Theology/Biblical Studies, and was given wonderful instruction and insight from many top Catholic biblical scholars working within a faith community designed to prepare future ministers for the Church.
I had never thought of myself as a minister, but by the end of the second year of my three-year program I realized sharing what I’d learned should indeed be a ministry within the Church. Providentially, at that time the Archdiocese of Chicago asked me to teach in the Chicago Catholic Scripture School using the same curriculum I’d learned in Denver. I was later hired to run the Scripture School in the Archdiocese and expanded the program to several class sites in the Chicago area. At the request of the Diocese of Joliet, I began a similar program, the Biblical Institute of the Diocese of Joliet (a neighboring diocese) when I left Chicago.