.- As Cheryl Dickow was teaching English and Religion to Catholic junior high students over the course of several years, she began to notice a problem. Although she was able to provide books to her kids that addressed basic Christian values, she had difficulty finding material that was explicitly Catholic and saw the hunger her students had to learn more about the faith.
âI was always searching for books that were Catholic in content and would appeal to that particularly challenging age group,â Dickow said Jan. 5. âThey want and need so much in their books â they want 'real' characters and situations but need to see truth and honesty and integrity; they need role models who are worthy of such a position.â
Dickow, who holds a Master's Degree in Education and lives in Waterfront, Michigan, said that for years she relied on books that reflected âgood Christian values,â but that a Catholic book is âa very specific entity.â
âCatholic,â she said, translates into books âthat may have a priest or a character receiving communion or it may have reference to the Blessed Mother or the Rosary and so on.â
âTo find books that had a storyline that intrigues middle-schoolers and keeps their attention while also being 'Catholic' was no easy task.â
In a drastic move â and after much prayer and discernment â Dickow acknowledged the need her students had for engaging books that addressed Catholicism. In 2007, she took a leap of faith, left her job and founded a publishing company called Bezalel Books.
The name for the company comes from a Hebrew word that means âin the shadow of God.â Bezalel is also the name of a craftsman in the book of Exodus in the Old Testament âto whom God gave great skills so that all that Moses was commanded to make would be done according to Godâs will,â she noted.
âUltimately, the mission and purpose of Bezalel Books is to serve God through the gifts, talents and resources of those authors whose works are under our imprint,â Dickow said.
The heart of her company's mission, Dickhow explained, is the desire to bring âgreat Catholic literature to Catholic classroomsâ and create a âCatholic Scholastic.â
Since 2007, her group has published books such as Patti Maguire Armstrongâs âDear God, I donât get it!â and Rosemary McDunnâs âThe Green Coat: A Tale from the Dust Bowl Years,â among other titles.
Dickow has also published books for adults such as her fictional âElizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage,â which she called âa Catholic Womanâs Chick-Litâ book, and Peggy Bowes' âThe Rosary Workout,â a volume that touches on health and wellness centered on the Rosary.
In the three short years since its creation, Bezalel Books has already enjoyed numerous successes.
A study for young women called âAll Things Girlâ has gone on to become a 12-part television series on EWTN, and âThe Green Coat: A Tale from the Dust Bowl Yearsâ was number one on Amazon.com for two summers in a row in Historical Fiction as many teachers across the nation made it required summer reading.
Dickow's own work of fiction has also enjoyed success and is a popular book club selection as well as a womanâs inspirational book.
Dickow said that the daunting task of starting up a publishing company has been âa family affair.â With the help of three sons from ages 18-22, a husband she has been married to for 25 years, and an outside webmaster, âwe pretty much have everything covered.â
âBefore I made the final decision to start Bezalel Books, my husband and I did a lot of research about publishing to learn the ins and outs and ups and downs; and we did even more praying and discerning,â she said. âThis was a big financial risk for me to leave my teaching position but if I truly wanted to respond to Godâs call upon my life, it almost seemed like I didnât have a choice.â
âOverall, we simply try to see where there is a need in the Catholic world and fill that need.â
She also gave words of encouragement to other Catholics who see needs that correspond to their individual gifting but are intimidated by the task.
âGifts and talents from God are always meant for His good and His glory,â she said. âFor me this translates into the need to discern how God wants you to use your gifts and talents. It may be within the Church, filling a need, or it may be elsewhere.â
âFor this reason I think the first and most important step is to spend time in prayer and discernment,â Dickow emphasized.
âThis doesnât mean, unfortunately, that all will be smooth and easy,â she noted. âWhich is why, of course, proper discernment is key â in the beginning and all along the way.â
âAlong with discerning, research and gathering knowledge is important. Together, these things reduce intimidation and prepare you to best serve God and His Church.â
Cheryl Dickow is a regular contributor to CNA's Catholic Womanhood page. Her columns can be read at: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/cw/author.php?id=35