January 18, 2008

Go and Make Disciples / John Valenti

Catechesis for adults

Since Pope John Paul II’s first apostolic exhortation “On Catechesis In Our Time,” our Church has taught that “the catechesis of adults is the principle form of catechesis because it is addressed to persons who have the greatest responsibility and the capacity to live the Christian message in its fully developed form.”

This message was given in Rome at St. Peter’s Basilica on Oct. 16, 1979, the second year of his pontificate.

A group devoted to this mission is our Adult Faith Formation Committee, which is part of the archdiocese’s Evangelization Commission.

Shelia Gilbert, committee chairperson, said, “We have been waiting a long time for adult faith formation to become the standard. Many good Catholics have taken this to heart and have steadfastly worked toward some level of adult faith formation for nearly 30 years.”

With the publication of the U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults, we have clarified the content of our faith.

“It’s now time for serious educators to plan for implementation,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert and the committee members stress that all catechesis should strive to build adult Christian communities that are strong in faith, clearly proclaim the Gospel, celebrate vibrant and reverent liturgy, and give courageous witness in charity.

Leading by example, Gilbert is an instructor at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, leads the “Denver Bible Study” program at St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis and is actively involved with the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

“Every person has the right to hear the Good New,” Gilbert said. “This right implies the corresponding duty to evangelize.”

Planning for adult faith formation is to serve the glory of God, the building of the kingdom, and the good of the Church. The goal is to orient adult Christian learning toward adult Christian living.

Presently, the group is planning to unlock the treasures in the U.S. bishops’ document, Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us, A Pastoral Plan for Adult Faith Formation in the United States, for archdiocesan parish leadership.

This document specifies the following three goals to guide and direct efforts in adult faith formation: Invite and enable ongoing conversion to Jesus in holiness of life; promote and support active membership in the Christian community; and call and prepare adults to act as disciples in mission to the world.

“The real challenge is to give adult faith formation the best of our pastoral resources and energies,” Gilbert said.

Making adult faith formation essential and integral to the pastoral plan of the parish is the goal. In fact, adult catechesis should be the organizing principle which gives coherence to programs for children and youth.

Gilbert said, “To be viable, we must design adult faith formation opportunities to serve the needs and interests of the entire faith community.”

The archdiocese’s Adult Faith Formation Committee is sponsoring a planning session for parish leadership on Feb. 2. For more information, go to www.archindy/evangelization.org.

(John Valenti is the associate director of Evangelization and Faith Formation for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. E-mail him at jvalenti@archindy.org.) †

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