Archbishop Column - November 19, 2004
Year of the Eucharist: We need to be
centered on faith formation and faith sharing
Beginning this past October until October 2005, Pope John Paul II has asked Catholics throughout the world to concentrate on acknowledging and celebrating the centrality of the Eucharist in the life of the church. Basic to this effort will be expanded faith formation opportunities for adults so that they will be more willing to share their faith with others.
Our Archdiocesan Synod this past July had as one of its main areas of concern the lifelong faith formation of all our people. Continuing spiritual growth which leads to increased involvement in the mission of the church was one of the priorities of the synodal process.
Synod statement on faith formation and sharing faith
"Faith formation (knowledge, experience, commitment) is essential to our lives of faith and the life of the church. This formation is at the heart of the church's teaching mission in our parishes and institutions, for all our people, from the youngest to the oldest.
As adults, we baptized are called to ongoing conversion to the person of Jesus and his mission in the world. We have to re-appropriate the teaching of the church to our present situation on an ongoing basis.
It is through our response to the call of the Lord to his disciples, and our willingness to share the good news we have experienced with others through word and deed, that we make a difference in the world."
The members of the Synod recommended to me that "adult formation must be a priority in the archdiocese in order that the mission of the church is supported by all her members. The movement from worship (especially sharing the paschal mystery of Jesus in the Eucharist) to service for others requires knowledge, formation and commitment."
At the same time, Synod members recognized that "This priority for adult faith formation needs to take place as a continuation of our strong commitment as an archdiocese to the faith formation of children and youth." We will not neglect our Catholic schools and religious formation programs for public school students in order to highlight adult formation programs in our archdiocese. We need both. But the failure to provide consistent ongoing adult formation opportunities for our people has been a weakness in our formation. As we mature physically and emotionally, we need to mature in our understanding of our faith and in our spiritual formation.
Synod members pointed out that it is important that we put into place "practical and helpful structures that will impact the largest number of adult Catholics in the archdiocese." This means "a unified effort with diverse approaches to ongoing faith formation for adults in all our parishes."
Some of the programs that synodal members recommended are: small faith-sharing groups, parish-based retreats, classes in the "Catechism of the Catholic Church," Scripture classes, the archdiocesan Catholic Biblical School and a wide variety of books, pamphlets, videos and computer web sites that are well-done and user-friendly.
My response to synod recommendations
I will ask my cabinet (department heads who meet regularly with me as a group) for an evaluation of the programs for adult education that are currently available in the archdiocese. I will then seek input from the archdiocesan Council of Priests and the archdiocesan Pastoral Council regarding the development of additional programs that are needed for adults in the archdiocese. Of particular interest to me will be liturgical formation with an emphasis on the Eucharist.
The support and encouragement of priests, deacons and lay ministers in the archdiocese will be necessary for adult faith formation programs to impact a large number of our people. Therefore, these pastoral leaders need to be involved in the planning, scheduling and evaluation of actual participation of adults and young adults in these programs. In-service preparation for those who conduct the programs will be important in order to attract and retain significant numbers of people in this formation process. This means that we must have an ongoing review and evaluation of adult education programs, recommendations for improvements, and an assessment of needs to determine future program developments.
I will direct the Office of Religious Formation to foster and promote adult formation programs and opportunities in parishes and institutions of the archdiocese that will reach the greatest number of people. This office will collaborate with the Family Life Office, the Office of Lay Ministry Formation, the Hispanic Ministry Office, the Social Ministry Commission of the archdiocese, and the Office for Formation and Education in Sexuality which works primarily with parents throughout the archdiocese. These offices and agencies will provide parishes with the necessary resources to promote the implementation of new adult education initiatives.
It is the hope of our synodal members, and my hope, that the continuing spiritual growth of our people will lead to increased involvement in the mission of the church. Certainly increased awareness of the significance of the Eucharist in our lives of faith will help bring about a renewal of Catholic life throughout Northeast Nebraska.