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Diocese now offers adult faith formation consulting

By FRED SHELLABARGER

In his pastoral letter, Bishop Walker Nickless asks the question, “If we, who are supposed to be mature in faith do not know the Catholic faith, well, how can we live it and impart it to our children and future generations of Catholics?”

What Bishop is addressing is the importance of adult faith formation, and moreover, the necessity of a deep, mature and lived adult faith.

With this in mind, the Diocese of Sioux City will now offer consultation in adult faith formation for parishes and schools.

As Pope St. John Paul II declared, “Adults have the greatest responsibilities and the capacity to live the Christian message in its fully developed form.” Their formation in faith is essential for the church to carry out its mandate to proclaim the good news of Jesus to the world.

Truly, God desires all to come to a mature adult faith, and this is the goal of all forms of catechesis: “Maturity of faith is the intent of all catechesis from the earliest years. Thus, all catechesis is geared to a lifelong deepening of faith in Christ” (OHBWU 41).

It may not seem like one is working on producing faithful mature adults when one is handing out coloring sheets to squirmy, excited, and easily distracted five-year-olds, but that is exactly what one is doing. This demonstrates how forward thinking the church is, the church who like Christ, continues to love, to believe, to hope, and to endure for the sake of the joy that is set before them (1 Cor 13:7; Heb 12:2). What is needed is courage and patience. Perhaps this is why St. Paul reminds us, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (1 Cor 3:6).

With regard to catechesis, catechists (particularly of adults) must ask themselves the questions: 1) “Am I inviting and enabling ongoing conversion to Jesus in holiness of life?” 2) “Does my catechesis promote active membership in the local parish, and for that matter, in the church as a whole?” 3) Finally, “Am I helping adults to recognize their call to mission in the world, to advance the kingdom and renew the temporal order?”

These are the goals outlined in the USCCB’s “Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us” and they should guide every effort, from the preparation of a catechetical lesson, to its delivery and beyond. At the same time the catechist must bear in mind that it is necessary to meet adults where they are, to make them participants in their own formation. Subjecting adults to merely a resume of facts will not make disciples. Adults need to know what the “lived faith” looks like.

The effect this understanding of Adult Faith Formation can have cannot be overstated. As Catholics, we recognize that parents have the duty and responsibility to be the primary educators of their children. Effective adult faith formation will certainly have a profound impact on children, youth and young adults. In a sense, it will produce children’s catechists and youth ministers in the home; parents will instruct their children in the faith by their words, deeds and particularly, example of lifelong formation – catechesis does not and should not end with confirmation but is a pilgrimage over the course of each person’s life (OHBWU 39-40).

Fred Shellabarger is assistant director of adult catechesis and family life for the Diocese of Sioux City. For more information on adult faith formation, contact him at (712) 233-7532 or freds@scdiocese.org.

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