February 15, 2008

Go and Make Disciples / John Valenti

How can we approach adult faith formation?

“What’s working well in our parishes?”

According to participants at a recent archdiocesan workshop, the top answers to that question were:

  • Christ Renews His Parish.
  • Small Church Communities.
  • The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA).
  • Lenten reflection series.

The comments were solicited from 27 parish representatives during a recent workshop titled “Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us: A Strategic Plan for Adult Faith Formation in the United States.”

Matthew Hayes, president of Brebeuf Jesuit Prepatory School in Indianapolis and former chief catechetical director for the Archdiocese of Louisville, facilitated the day.

Participants previewed the aforementioned United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ adult faith formation document, and the day was spent focusing on the positive aspects of what our parishes are doing. There was also a discussion on concrete approaches to adult faith formation. (More on adult faith formation)

Donna McKenzie, a member of St. Joseph University Parish in Terre Haute, asked, “How can we deal with the limited time that families have?” and “How do we balance doctrine, faith, ritual, spirituality and community?”

Susan Isaacs, a member of St. Mary-of-the-Knobs Parish in Floyds Knobs, asked, “How do we best train adult leaders who themselves need to be educated in the faith?”

Ron Greulich, director of stewardship education for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, said, “I like the idea of catechist certification for adult faith formation.”

In reflecting on the six dimensions of adult faith formation content and the qualities of mature faith, the group also had a few recommendations for the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education:

  • Provide a vision for adult faith formation.
  • Provide training, structure and certification for adult faith formation leaders.
  • Offer workshops, printed material and Web-based information on “how to facilitate adult groups.”
  • Provide an “Our Hearts Were Burning” leader’s guide.
  • Send a monthly e-mail, including articles, by adult faith formation leaders.
  • Provide a list of resources, adult programs and links which parishes can implement.
  • Recruit new members for the Archdiocesan Adult Faith Formation Committee.
  • Help establish adult faith formation teams.
  • Conduct quarterly meetings for adult faith formation leaders for faith-building, training, inspiration and enrichment.
  • Communicate success stories.
  • Encourage pastors to be actively engaged in adult faith formation programs.
  • Offer an Ecclesial Lay Ministry session in New Albany.
  • Provide consistent program offerings for all parishes.
  • Work toward more full-time staff for adult faith formation in parishes.

Keeping the goal in focus, here is the plan that workshop participants decided on: Promote ongoing conversion to Jesus, facilitate active membership in the Catholic community and become disciples to the world.

Recognizing that these have been longtime goals in the archdiocese, Anne Corcoran, adult faith formation director at St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis, said, “Continue to focus on parish leadership training.”

She added, “This was a great day and a great help.”

(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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