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Symbolon training focuses on RCIA, adult faith formation

By KATIE LEFEBVRE, Globe staff reporter
(Email Katie)

RCIA and adult faith formation are important components in the Diocese of Sioux City as they are in any diocese.

Bishop Walker Nickless discussed them as priorities in his pastoral letter, Ecclesia Semper Reformanda (The Church Is Always In Need of Renewal).

With this in mind, the diocese hosted Symbolon training the weekend of Aug. 8-10 at St. Michael Church in Sioux City. The training focused on adult formation and RCIA.

“In our diocese, this is further reaching Bishop Walker Nickless’ goal in his pastoral letter to have better catechesis beginning with adults and focusing on adult faith formation,” said Sean Martin, diocesan director of new evangelization, catechesis and family life. “The main purpose is to train people in best practices for the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, to describe the importance of adult faith formation in parishes and to develop a plan of action to be implemented.”

RCIA, adult faith formation

About 70 people, the bulk from the diocese, attended the training including four priests and 15 deacons. Other attendees were from the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb.; the Diocese of Sioux Falls, S.D.; the Archdiocese of Dubuque and Honey Creek, Texas.

“Everyone walked away with a smile on their face and very excited, refreshed and renewed in the ministries of RCIA and adult faith formation,” said Martin. “They also walked away with good ideas to be implemented in the parishes.”

The weekend consisted of four keynote addresses, breakout tracks for RCIA and adult faith formation, discussion time, Mass on Sunday and each night ended with a holy hour.

“The RCIA track went through the text The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults,” said Martin. “The adult faith formation track went through the USCCB’s document Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us. This is all about the importance of adult faith formation in the parishes.”

The speakers for the weekend were Martin, Michelle Nillson, associate director of evangelization and catechesis in the Diocese of Madison, Wis.; Scott Sollom, assistant professor of Theology at Franciscan University and coordinator of campus RCIA; and Martha Tonn, a full-time catechist with the School of Faith, an apostolate within the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kan.

The training will continue throughout the year with monthly webinars and an in-person follow-up training on Feb. 21 at St. Michael’s in Sioux City.

“The reason this is on-going for a year is so that we can help them implement what we discussed and talked about at the conference itself,” said Martin.

Continuing formation

Deacon Bill Black, pastoral minister and RCIA director at St. Cecelia’s in Algona, attended Symbolon with Joyce Van Haastert, the Life Long Faith Formation Director for St. Cecelia’s.

“Just as it is in the lives of those who journey through the RCIA process continuing education is important in the life of a catechist,” he said. “Attending the Symbolon conference was an opportunity for me to not only gain skills to become a more efficient RCIA director but also for my own personal growth in faith.”

The training, he said, not only gave him guidance on how “to efficiently lead catechumens and candidates through the different stages of the RCIA process, but it gave direction on how to meet and walk with people from where they are in life.”

“I have always believed this to be true and the presenters gave us fresh and new ways to do just that,” said Deacon Black. “I found what Scott (Sollom) said about leading those in the process to understand and be able to answer questions - Who am I?  What will happen? How should I live? - and connect the answers to their life experiences, to be very helpful. The way he connected these questions to Jesus who is the truth, way and life and how faith, hope and charity are key to answering those questions will be something I will use in all areas of ministry.”

He added although the conference required the commitment of the time and energy of an entire weekend, “it was well worth attending.”

“Father (Mark) Stoll recommended the training as a crucial component of developing our RCIA/Adult Faith Formation programs,” said Carol Glackin, director of faith formation at Immaculate Conception in Moville. “I also saw it as my own adult faith formation.”

She attended with Marie Washburn, director of faith formation at St. Michael’s in Kingsley; Sonya Hamman, catechist at St. Michael’s; Jackie Lammers, RCIA catechist at St. Michael’s; and Father Mark Stoll, pastor of West Fork Catholic Community Parishes (Immaculate Conception and St. Michael Churches).

“All formats of faith formation are centered around Jesus Christ,” said Glackin. “What we as Catholics do, what we say, the symbolic representations in our faith – everything is designed to develop a relationship of love with God.  This isn’t new information by any means however, if we are to truly evangelize as Jesus tells us to do, we must present our faith in all of its fullness. It cannot be taught effectively by breaking it down into a series of dos and don’ts.”

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