WHAT IS FORMATION?
Formation is the spiritual, intellectual, and personal preparation that the Church offers to those men and women who have been called by God to a specific mission.
WHY THE CONCERN OVER THE FORMATION OF LAY CATHOLICS?
There are nearly 1 billion lay Catholics in the world. At present, only 2-3% of lay Catholics have access to significant formation outside their local parish. But this is not enough! All have been called to be apostles; all have been given gifts of the Holy Spirit for the sake of the world. Lay movements and specialized institutes are doing a wonderful job forming and empowering lay people but they are reaching only a tiny portion of the total Catholic population. Only a highly motivated minority of lay people with considerable leisure and mobility, (not to mention financial resources) will be able to seek out significant formation outside their local parish.
To ensure that even 10% of lay Catholics have access to formation, we will have to turn to the one Catholic institution which is to be found all over the world and yet is seldom considered as a venue for formation: the local parish. The local parish is the most natural, most accessible place for the overwhelming majority of lay Catholics to receive formation.
. . .the Parish which has the essential task of a more personal and immediate formation of the lay faithful. (The Vocation and Mission of the Lay Faithful, 61).
HOW DOES FORMATION DIFFER FROM CATECHISM?
Catechesis is a "primary education" in the faith; it develops beginning faith, preparing a Christian to receive the sacraments and participate in the liturgy. Good catechesis in the fundamentals of the faith is essential and Catholics usually receive some kind of catechesis as child. Catechesis is not the same as formation.
WHAT KIND OF FORMATION DO ADULT CATHOLICS NEED?
Adult Catholics need more than a catechesis designed for children. As Catholics, we are called not only to receive Christ in the sacraments, but also to bring Christ to the world. Consequently, adult Catholics need a further kind of religious education, one that prepares them to live as apostles, gifted men and women of faith who are called by God to shape the world they live in through their love and work.
WHO SHOULD RECEIVE FORMATION?
Every Catholic should receive formation. Good formation is the right of every baptized Christian and is critical to his or her fulfillment and effectiveness as a follower of Jesus.
"Formation is not the privilege of a few, but a right and duty of all. (The Vocation and Mission of the Lay Faithful, 63).
HOW DOES LAY FORMATION DIFFER FROM THE FORMATION OF PRIESTS AND RELIGIOUS?
Formation is never generic. Formation is always designed around the unique mission of the person who is being formed. So the formation of lay Catholics must be designed around the unique mission of lay apostles: mission in the world. Formation for the laity must not be "watered-down" seminary. Clergy prepare in seminary for a quite different mission - ministry within the Church. Most of their time is spent working with people, and within a culture and structure that is essentially Christian.
Some lay Catholics are called to full time ministry within the Church but the vast majority of lay Catholics (99 %) are called to a mission that lies outside the parish. Apostles in the midst of the world need a formation that addresses the unique challenges of their calling. Lay people need to be prepared to relate to and evangelize individuals, cultures, and structures that may be non-Christian or even anti-Christian.
"Since the laity share in their own way in the mission of the Church, their apostolic formation is specially characterized by the distinctively secular and particular quality of the lay state and by its own form of the spiritual life." (Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, 29)
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE FORMATION OF LAY CATHOLICS?
The Church asks that all Catholic individuals and Catholic institutions work together to ensure that every Catholic receives an adequate and appropriate formation, one which prepares him or her to answer God's call. Lay Catholics have a responsibility to form themselves.
"Indeed, everyone should painstakingly ready himself personally for the apostolate, especially as an adult . . . enabling each person to evaluate more accurately the talents with which God has enriched his soul and to exercise more effectively those charismatic gifts which the Holy Spirit has bestowed on him for the good of his brothers." (Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, 30)
"The Christian family, as the 'domestic Church', also makes up a natural and fundamental school for formation in the faith." (The Vocation and Mission of the Lay Faithful, 62)
- Religious Educators/Catholic Teachers
"Those who have the obligation to provide a Christian education also have the duty of providing formation for the apostolate." (Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, 30)
- Priests and Religious
"Priests should focus their attention on the formation of the laity for the apostolate in their catechetics, their ministry of the word, their direction of souls and in their other pastoral services." (Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, 30)
"Priests and religious ought to assist the lay faithful in their formation. In this regard the Synod Fathers have invited priests and candidates for Orders to "be prepared carefully so that they are ready to foster the vocation and mission of the lay faithful." (The Vocation and Mission of the Lay Faithful, 61)
WHERE SHOULD LAY CATHOLICS BE FORMED?
- In the Home
- In Catholic schools/universities
- In the Diocese
- In lay movements/third orders/secular institutes
- In the Parish