Tag Archives: Adult formation

Parish Reflection

The US bishops recently published a document on the New Evangelisation: Disciples Called to Witness: The New Evangelisation. Towards the end of the document are some very helpful ‘parish reflection questions’. These questions would be an excellent springboard for parish reflection and discussion on how to improve our formation within parishes. How would you parish respond to these questions? How can we “re-propose” Christ to people this year?

How can our parishes become more and more places of community and prayer?

Diocesan and parish leadership are encouraged to reflect on the following questions as they prepare pastoral plans aimed at “re-proposing” Christ to the faithful and inviting our brothers and sisters to the Lord’s Table:

• How does the parish community provide people with opportunities for a personal encounter with Jesus Christ?

• In addition to offering sound catechetical instruction in the teachings of the Church, to what extent do faith formation programs have as an objective fostering a personal relationship with Christ?

• What does the parish do to help people deepen their prayer life?

• How has the parish recruited, formed, and supported individuals to be evangelizers through the witness of their lives?

• How are pastors fostering the consciousness of the laity to be evangelizers in the modern world?

• How do pastors engage people during “teachable moments,” such as Baptisms, weddings, and funerals?

• Are there faith formation programs on how to pass down the faith for parents, grandparents, and godparents?

• Are there faith formation programs for adolescents and young adults on how to share their faith with others in college and in the workplace?

• How are pastors supported in their vocation to evangelize?

• Are there ongoing faith formation programs for pastors on homiletics?

• Is there instruction for pastors and parish leaders on how to use social media to reach people?

• What parish-based pastoral programs support people in their everyday lives? Are there programs for the newly married, new parents, divorced, grieving, and unemployed?

• How has the diocese and parish promoted the New Evangelization?


Catechesis and… Mojitos, anyone?

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Call me a bore, but I’m becoming more and more convinced of the great need for adult catechesis. Two conversations this week sparked this new concern in me.

The first was with a parishioner at the weekend. She had been present at a diocesan study day on Church unity, together with parish representatives from around the diocese. Among the questions that arose during the day was confusion over why Catholics can’t go to an Anglican service in place of Mass. From the sounds of things, this wasn’t somebody with a misconceived agenda, but rather a genuine question. I would like to say that I was surprised, but in all truth, I wasn’t, really.

The second was at supper with a friend during the week. She is a mum who has been on a big conversion over the last few years, and she knows the ins and outs of being a parent “at the school gate”. A lot of people comment on the wide range of catechesis we offer in the parish. It is true, but I am aware that we barely reach the tip of the iceberg. Beneath the surface are hundreds of adults ‘on the edge’ – coming to Mass each Sunday, certainly believing in God, but never quite managing to make the assent of faith that means actually committing your life. They would be unlikely to miss Sunday Mass, but they would be just as unlikely to commit to anything more: formation, spiritual direction or daily prayer.

I was talking about this problem with my friend. A friend of hers (at the school gate) had commented about formation: “It’s just not fun“. I was actually shocked. Here am I, a twentysomething (OK, OK, going on fifty…) being amazed that women in their forties need to be tempted like a teenager by something Fun. OK, so we need an MTV approach to adult formation – cocktails, a dancefloor, maybe some designer labels to peruse? A C-list celebrity kicking things off? Our teenagers are happy with Krispy Kreme donuts and a game of Jenga. But their parents?!

It has got me thinking though. How can we best use the Year of Faith to reach those in our parishes who are happy not being reached? Who will bake cakes for the PTA but don’t need any more God-stuff, thank you very much.

What I have noticed over the past few months during the Catholicism course is that young adults in their twenties and thirties who came on the course, for the large part, lapped everything up. It was clear from the outset that many of them with little previous formation suddenly realised that the scraps of understanding they had about the Faith were not enough, and they committed eagerly to the course, and were soon to be found at any formation opportunity in the parish. With these people, it is like working with a completely blank slate, so poor has their Catholic formation been. I thank God for this, because it’s much easier to work with a clean slate than with a slate with lots of dubious writing in crooked lines…

It is the next generation up (forties and fifties), with some exceptions, who are far less eager. We’re talking about people with a lot more life experience and therefore with set views on life, whose formation in faith has not developed at the same rate as their life has. Throw a few complications into the mix (living with their partner and not seeing the point of getting married; divorce; contraceptive approach to their family planning; etc) as well as wealth and an expectation of a certain lifestyle (an added complication in our area) and things get messy, difficult, complicated. Suddenly formation in the faith becomes a lot harder. On top of this, older generations tend to have more hang-ups about the Church which the younger generations do not – problems with authority, especially where they see it threatening their lifestyle.

So, what is the best approach? Stick with the younger generations and leave the older ones to themselves? Of course not (however tempting it may be)… But we need a new, different and creative approach.


Catholicism

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We are into week four of the Catholicism series, and I wanted to share with you how it’s going. In the week leading up to the first session on January 12th, each day brought new surprises. The phone was ringing off the hook and the emails were going mad. At the beginning of the week we had around 30 wanting to take part in the course; by the end of Thursday we had 94! The number continued to rise – we now have just under 100. We had to send to the States for more study binders which thankfully have arrived now which gives our photocopier a breather. In this last week before we started, not only was I trying to stay afloat of the admin involved, I also needed to rope in more small group leaders and give them last minute training. Thankfully God provided: we have some wonderful leaders.

I’m happy to say the course is being hugely blessed. The first night there was quite a bit of excitement around buying Catechisms and, for many, delving in for the first time. The DVDs are an all-round hit, although I would say that for most people the content needs some unpacking. We do this in a ten-minute catechesis after the episode either given by myself or Deacon James Bradley. The small groups have been working well too, with everyone benefitting a lot from the discussion but in agreement that there simply isn’t enough time to discuss as much as they’d like. We have given this thought, and decided it’s better for people to come away wanting more than make the evening unmanageably long.

What has struck me most is the desire in people to know their faith. This has not been taken seriously enough in our Church. A young woman told me in the pub afterwards that her eyes had been opened to how much she simply didn’t know. People speak of how nourishing the material is and how it makes them hungry for more. We had to start a blog in order to answer all the questions being asked each week. One man has already decided he would like to become a Catholic.

I don’t want to detract from these good fruits; I would just like to make an observation: If these are the fruits one course can reap in one small corner of London, why are we not making more of a priority of adult formation in our Church? I admit it – I am angry when I see the budgets given for disability awareness or for social justice when the work done in the sphere of adult catechesis is negligible. Adult catechesis is treated as a luxury when it should be a normal part of every adult lay Catholic’s life. Courses like this should not be a novelty, they should be very ordinary. The Church’s task is to teach and sanctify her members, but when I teach after the episode each week, I know that the only teaching most of these people have ever received in their faith is the homily at Mass each week, since they were a teenager. That is why they don’t know the basics of their faith: let’s not sweep this under the carpet – it is a scandal.

To end on a positive note: this is a wonderful course, and a great gift to the barren desert of adult catechesis in our country.