Myself and other catechists from our diocese attended a meeting today on adult faith formation based on the booklet “Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us” put out by the USCCB several years ago. We’re being encouraged to concentrate on adult catechesis as the most important means of converting our world to faith and love of God, with both members and non-members being audiences considered to often be lacking in a good understanding of our faith.
We’ve had varying degrees of success, none overwhelming, in our different parishes with bible study or prayer groups, Renew, Generations of Faith. It’s been a dream of mine to find a way to draw more people and keep their interest. I know people must perceive a need before they’re willing to become serious about their faith or seek God more earnestly but I’d like to know if anyone’s had any particular success with a particular program that they’d like to share. Any suggestions?****
Well, our parish uses an all generations format of catechesis that is wonderful! It is a program that was developed about 5 years ago by our then Director of Religious Ed. in an effort to reach, teach and form everyone in the parish from the youngest to the eldest. 2 years ago that particular DRE left our parish to start his own ministry. I would highly recommend you check out his website at www.newevangelizationministries.org ; Read his bio and check out his video clips under the multimedia tab. He has an inspiring conversion story. He is a dynamic speaker and has brought so many adults more fully into their faith-not to mention the youth that he worked with in our parish. One of the things he does in his ministry is he travels to parishes by invitation and works with the pastoral staff to develop ways to better evangelize their members.
As far as how our parish has embraced our multi generational catechesis…the formation we’ve received has spurred new interest in bible study and other mediums of formation. We have a multitude of parishioners involved in a variety of ministies in and outside of the parish. We are not a huge parish and we have 2 coach buses filled to capacity going to the March for Life next week. So I would say it has been a huge blessing for our parish. The thing is this, we all have the desire within us to seek God, we just need to have that desire awakened!
The website you included does seem to show a solid and zealous heart in your former DRE. My experience so far with intergenerational catechesis is limited, but very negative. I think maybe it was because the leaders of the program in my parish did not know the Faith themselves, and those they “trained” to lead thus knew even less, and the net result was the blind leading the blind.
Many Religious Ed “teachers” these days even deny that they are “teachers” - they present themselves as “facilitators” of “faith-sharing”. But they have mostly only their own opinions to share, and very little understanding of the actual faith of the Church. The result is a sharing of - well, forgive me for being blunt - ignorance and opinion. When those who are being “taught” have no foundation to discern the truth from opinion, the result is more and more misinformation, and less and less real formation in the saving Faith of the Church.
Is your pastor on-board? Does he really believe in the need for adult formation? Without the pastor’s active and whole-hearted support, my experience is that you can accomplish a little among a few, but not much among the many. “If the pastor says so,” many Catholics will follow. If adult formation is merely the extra “thing” of a few lay people, it will not be taken seriously by most.
God always keeps and graces a few, and these are hungry! The Lord will bless the work of those who offer the beauty of His Truth to the Church! Please let us pray that true conversion and reform and renewal will sweep the whole Church!
You bring up a very real problem-we may have to evangelize the would-be evangelizers in many cases! Maybe it’s too much to ask to get a large percentage of parishioners involved-I don’t know-I keep thinking that if we can get something going that has real substance led by a few people truly excited about their faith then it might be contagious.
I think the time will come when more are ready to become serious about it but meanwhile I’d like to hear more from those who’ve had some success at stirring up interest. Maybe we should first be focusing on challenging people as to their level of understanding and faith while emphasizing that there’s no end-point to conversion or the depths of love and knowledge of God we can grow towards. In any case your last line is always the key-God help us!
the first “program” I have seen enjoy any kind of success here, and I have nothing to do with it, is That Man is You, a spiritual formation process for men. They are in their second year, over 40 men involved, double last year’s group, and they meet very early Sunday morning before Mass. This is out of Houston, thatmanisyou.com. Best thing is it has attracted men who are not otherwise involved in parish life, don’t attend other things.
The diocese has adopted Disciples in Mission as its official evangelization project, third year starts in Lent and we are one of the biggest parish groups involved, but still only about 100 hard core people, who are okay with the small group thing, but still reluctant to even consider door-to-door evangelization which is supposed to be the goal of the whole thing.
the bishops document Our Hearts is one of the best things to come out of the conference and one of the most ill-understood and utilized, because it describes how to beat most of the things that militate against adult formation, but parishes still do not make use of it, and very few (we may be one of the only) parishes have someone whose direct responsibility is adult formation.
Yes, the new evangelization must begin with us. It has been said that most Catholics are sacramentalized, but not catechized. That instead of teaching adults and blessing children, as Jesus did, we teach children and bless adults. Well, however it might be said, the need is painfully clear and obvious. Catholics do not know the faith.
And what good is done, in trying to teach children, only to send them home to parents who do not know the Faith, and who therefore cannot reinforce or augment what the children learn in their RE classes? We fill them up (at best!), and they lose it at home. The television is far more potent than we are, in our present configuration - and we know what the TV is forming in them: consumerism, materialism, immodesty, anger, violence and self-centeredness.
The Church needs radical reform, at the family and home level. And this cannot happen without a serious effort at adult formation and adult spiritual guidance. We need much more than platitudes - we need substance.
So I say if you have a platform, teach substance, and teach with sincere unction. Those who hunger will come. And that is where you can begin.
You definitely have to have the support of your pastor. You are right, that many of the “prepackaged” intergenerational programs tend to be alot of fluff and not much substance. That is why our DRE developed our own program. He and our pastor knew there was a serious need, not just in our parish, but across the board for adult catechesis and they saw the multi generation model as a way to fill the need. It has produced a multitude of fruits in our parish.
That Man is You is also being done in a neighboring parish and many of the men of our parish go to that. I have heard nothing but good things about that program as well. Very solid Catholic teaching.
Another way to get to the adults is to have a really good youth group forming the teens in the parish. Their apostolic zeal is really beautiful and can inspire the adults around them to delve deeper into their faith.
In any case I think one thing you have to help people to understand is that faith is a lifelong journey. There is no end, and our call as Baptized Catholics is to meet our brothers and sisters where they are and walk the journey with them.
Thanks everyone for your responses. I’ve checked the resources given and they have much to offer-this is all kind of new territory and it will be a learning experience in any case. I have high hopes. I agree with puzzleannie, BTW, Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us is a great booklet-well written and faith-filled. We just need to put it into action.