Siena E-Scribe, Newsletter of the Catherine of Siena Institute, Colorado Springs, Colorado
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September 2006

in this issue

From Teacher to Priest
Teaching for the Institute seems to be a catalyst to new and bigger things for some people. A priest teacher became a bishop, single people get married, and in this case, a seminarian is ordained. Find out what he learned from the Institute that
enhances his priesthood.

The Challenge of Adult Faith Formation (part 4)
In the final
installment of his article on the RCIA as a model for adult faith formation, Fr. Mike looks at how adult mentors, liturgical rites and seasons and a clear goal of vocational discernment might help shape an adult faith formation process.

Introducing Our Spanish Team
14% of the U.S. is Hispanic, with 49% of all Hispanics living in Texas and California. The majority of these nearly 48 million people are Catholic. What is the Catherine of Siena Institute doing for Spanish-speaking folks? Plenty, thanks to the help of our friends and collaborators.

The Virtues in My Closet
A poem by an award-winning young Dominican friar that causes us to pause and ask the perennial question, "What's in your closet?"


on the web

Zenit
Zenit provides coverage of events, documents and issues emanating from or concerning the Catholic Church, including:
- Activities of Pope Benedict XVI, such as his travels, documents and audiences
- The Vatican, including diplomatic activity, humanitarian efforts, and profiles of Church leaders
- Interviews with and features about leading lay Catholics, including researchers, politicians, writers and entertainers.
You can subscribe for daily dispatches in English and Saturday analyses of current news events. It's a great way to get a Catholic, international perspective on what's happening around the world, such as the Pope's recent statement regarding Islamists and violence.

Word on Fire
Fr. Robert Barron is a professor of systematic theology at the University of St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein Seminary. He is the author of several books, including, "St. Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master." On this website you can listen to his Sunday homilies, or subscribe to his podcast and download them and listen to them while driving to work, vacuuming the house, or shampooing the dog. You can also participate in on-line discussions about his homilies.

Center for Liturgy Sunday Website
St. Louis University provides web pages on the background of the Sunday readings, prayers to prepare the listener, and the spirituality of the readings for users who want to slow down and contemplate slowly and humanly the scriptural texts for the coming Sunday's Mass. These are wonderful resources for helping us "fully and consciously participate" in the Sunday liturgy.



called and gifted workshops

September 22-23, 2006
Greenville, SC
(Diocese of Charleston)

St. Mary Catholic Church
CONTACT: (864) 271-8422.

October 6-7, 2006
Livermore, CA
(Diocese of Oakland)

St. Michael Catholic Church
CONTACT: Deacon Bill Archer, Pastoral Associate, or the Parish office at (925) 447-1585 ext 12.

October 13-14, 2006
Tucson, AZ (Diocese of Tucson)
St. Pius X Catholic Church
CONTACT: The Parish office at (520) 326-5075.

Beaumaris, Victoria, Australia
(Archdiocese of Melbourne)

Stella Maris Catholic Church
CONTACT: the parish office at 03 9589 2271 or inquire by e-mail.

October 20-21, 2006
Valley City, ND
(Diocese of Fargo)

St. Catherine of Alexandria Catholic Church.
CONTACT: Father Michael Schommer (Pastor), or the Parish office at (414) 258-2604.

October 27-28, 2006
Akron, OH
(Archdiocese of Cleveland)
St. Sebastian Catholic Church
CONTACT: Father William Karg, Pastor, or the Parish office at (330) 836-2233.

November 3-4, 2006
Englewood, CO
(Archdiocese of Denver)
All Souls Catholic Church
CONTACT: Rian Ross, Stewardship & Family Life Director, or the Parish office at (303) 789-0007 ext 2707.

November 10-11, 2006
Lansing, MI
(Diocese of Lansing)
Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church
CONTACT: Father John Byers, Pastor, or the Parish office at (517) 393-3030.

Speaking engagements

October 17-19, 2006
Plymouth, MI
(Archdiocese of Detroit)

Fr. Mike Fones, OP will make the keynote presentation on "Forming the Faith Community" for the Catholic Campus Ministry Association (CCMA) Great Lakes Regional Conference held at the Retreat Center at St John's.
CONTACT: Krista Bajoka, Director of the Archdiocese of Detroit's Office for Young Adult and Campus Ministry, at (313) 237-4687.


Interviewer Training

Learn how to help others (as individuals or in small groups) to discern their charisms.
PREREQUISITES:
* Basic listening skills and spiritual maturity (best if practicing Christian for 2 years prior)
* Must have attended live Called & Gifted workshop or listened to CDs or audio tapes, took Catholic Spiritual Gifts Inventory, did some personal discernment, had a one-on-one personal Gifts Interview.

November 17-18, 2006
Colorado Springs, CO
(Diocese of Colorado Springs)

Catherine of Siena Institute
CONTACT Mike Dillon at (719) 219-0056
.

March 9-10, 2007
Greenville, SC
(Diocese of Charleston)

St. Mary Catholic Church
CONTACT Mike Dillon at (719) 219-0056 or Kate Tierney in Greenville, at (864) 297-8232
.

For Reflection

Catherine

You are a fire always burning but never consuming; you are a fire consuming in your heat all the soulís selfish love, you are a fire lifting all chill and giving light. In your light you have made me know your truth: You are that light beyond all light who gives the mindís eye supernatural light in such fullness and perfection that you bring clarity even to the light of faith. In that faith I see that my soul has life, and in that light receives you who are Light.

In the light of faith I gain wisdom in the wisdom of the Word your Son; in the light of faith I am strong, constant, persevering; in the light of faith I have hope: It does not let me faint along the way. This light teaches me the way, and without this light I would be walking in the dark. This is why I asked you, eternal Father, to enlighten me with the light of most holy faith.

sundown

Truly this light is a sea, for it nourishes the soul in you, peaceful sea, eternal Trinity. Its water is not sluggish; so the soul is not afraid because she knows the truth. It distills, revealing hidden things, so that here, where the most abundant light of your faith abounds, the soul has, as it were, a guarantee (clarification) of what she believes. This water is a mirror in which you, eternal Trinity, grant me knowledge, for when I look into this mirror, holding it in the hand of love, it shows me myself, as your creation, in you, and you in me through the union you have brought about of the Godhead with our humanity.

The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena

The Virtues That Live In My Closet
by Br. Jeremiah Loverich, O.P.

At the first stair, lifting the feet of her afflictions from the earth, the soul stripped herself of sin. At the second, she dressed herself in virtue. And at the third, she tasted peace.
      -- The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena

It was an open invitation, and they trickled in with their baggage.
Most came through the door,
But Faith and Charity slipped in through the ceiling, and Fortitude dragged
himself through the window.
Hope was carried in on a stretcher by two friends.
I got really nervous waiting for Patience, who arrived, late as usual.
They all came to live in my closet, and I promised to try to keep them happy.
(But itís a lot more work than I thought.)

Fortitude has a tattoo of the Sacred Heart.
He lifts weights and sometimes the clanking keeps me awake.
Heís the bouncer, always talking tough, always picking the right fights.
once he single-handily tossed three vices out into the street.
Itís good to have someone like that watching my back.

Temperance never goes very far, usually balancing six or seven different
notions atop the banister.
Once I caught him as far as the bathroom, herding a stray priority back
onto my desk.
He tells me to get enough sleep, to pray more often, and hides my cigarettes.

Faith is beautiful even when she wears jeans.
She gets in my head and wrestles with my reason.
A few days ago she had a black eye, but she refused to talk about it until I
brought her to Mass.
(I had trouble sleeping for a week.)

Joy is always singing and laughing, full of jokes and smiles.
She skips when she walks and hums when she sleeps, but sometimes
it can be too much and one particular morning,
When she was particularly effervescent (and I was particularly surly),
I scowled at her Good morning sunshine!
and hurt her feelings.
She said that I was being superficial, that true Joy lives deep down inside,
that she is always fresh and you feel hollow without her.
I grunted and turned back to my cereal.

Justice has a bad knee and limps around on a cane.
He doesnít go anywhere at night anymore and speaks about how dark it is
even when the sunís out.
I donít blame him, though. Itís hard to live in this world. Itís hard to always
carry around such things.
He knows what suffering is, he knows what healing is,
He pulls me out of myself, and sometimes it feels like peeling off a scab.

Prudence reads a lot. Whenever Iím missing a book,
I can usually find it, with dog-eared corners, hiding under my socks,
where he tends to hang out.
Heís full of sayings about life and love and the keys to happiness,
Most are clichťs, most are wise: The moon wanes, but it waxes, too.
Donít do anything stupid like falling in love.

I had dinner with Charity last week.
Over a glass of Merlot that I really couldnít afford, I confessed,
I donít know you that well.
Not many do, she said, I guess you should take me out more,
her eyes probing, chiding.

Humility sleeps, curled-up in the corner (although he knows
that the bureau drawers are more comfortable.)
He reminds me of the earth, he reminds that I am small,
He fills my pockets with dust.

I still remember the day last year, when I woke up
And the door of the closet was shatteredówhite splinters everywhere
and footprints on the walls.
O my God, I yelled, theyíre all gone!
Donít worry, said Patience, sticking her head out from under the covers,
whispering in my ear,
Iím still here. Theyíll come back.
(They did come back, but that day was hell.)

I hope that never happens again. I hope
my virtues will fit better today than yesterday.
I hope I will learn what peace tastes like. I hope because Hope
lives with me, and sheís getting stronger every day.

 

Thank You...

Fr. Mike gratefully acknowledges the hospitality shown to him by Fr. Paul Wicker, of Holy Apostles Church, Colorado Springs. Fr. Paul opens his home to Fr. Mike when Institute business calls him to "headquarters". Thanks, also, to Col. Liz Anderson of Colorado Springs, who provides Fr. Mike with a vehicle for transportation during his visits and delicious meal replacement bars to keep his energy up!

Once again, thank you to Anna Elias-Cesnik and Patricia Mees Armstrong for their help in editing this edition of the e-Scribe.

Finally, please consider participating in planned giving with the Catherine of Siena Institute.  As you write your plan for the future help us expand our efforts in the formation of intentional lay disciples. 

 

 

From Teacher to Priest
by Fr. Bryan Dolejsi

As a teacher for the Institute, I often mentioned how privileged my formation was by being able to encounter the local Catholic Church in so many diverse places around the country.  At each workshop I became aware of the local needs and concerns, as well the working of the Holy Spirit in individuals' lives and in the life of the community.  More than anything I came away from each teaching experience with a renewed sense of purpose and energy for my own vocation just by experiencing the positive participation and hope of individuals within a parish community about how they already are serving God and how they can serve God "anew" in the future.  

Now, happily ordained, I have hung up my frequent flyer miles and my position as an active teacher for the Institute to be a parochial vicar of four parishes south of Seattle in Tacoma, WA. I find that almost all of the knowledge and skills I learned while teaching for the Institute have been immediately applicable in this ministry setting.  

Having an understanding of how the Holy Spirit works in the life of the church through the charisms has broadened my horizon of possibilities. Just by being aware of the charisms, I am able to quickly identify the Spirit working in others and to give them direct feedback and encouragement regarding their proclamation of Christ through their charism.  As a priest, I am more aware of my primary charisms (teaching, evangelization, leadership) so I focus most of my energy into these areas.  I fulfill the other needs of the parish as best as I am able; however, I try and place most of my energy on opportunities to utilize my charisms while encouraging others to do the same so that our Church will be alive and a true light of the Gospel.  One of the lay pastoral associates here at the parishes has attended the Called and Gifted workshop and is on the regular newsletter mailing, also.  We have already spoken about ways of educating our parishioners regarding the charisms through adult education classes, the weekly bulletin, brief catechetical talks at the end of Mass or through weekday homilies.  And these are just the initial possibilities!  

Moving from a teacher for the Catherine of Siena Institute to a priest has been a very smooth process overall.  I can clearly point to the training and experiences I had while a teacher for the Institute.  But more than anything, ordained or not, I am a baptized member of the Body of Christ, fairly sure of the charisms God has provided me with, and I am willing to serve the Lord with my entire self, as a teacher, as a priest, as co-disciple of Christ with all of you!  We are all called to the same mission, to live as priest, prophet, and king of Christ, and with the working of the Holy Spirit, we can again and again fulfill the mission Christ has given us until he comes again in glory!  

 

The Challenge of Adult Faith Formation (part 4)
by Fr. Michael Fones, O.P., co-Director, Catherine of Siena Institute

In Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us, the U.S. Catholic Bishops suggested that the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) could be used in parishes as a model for adult faith formation. They suggested goals for adult faith formation: conversion to the Lord, active membership in the Church, and the preparation of adults to act as disciples in mission to the world.  The first stage of the RCIA, the precatechumenate, is an important time of conversion from an old way of life to a new way in Christ.  The precatechumenate comes first in the RCIA, suggesting that in adult Catholics, serious conversion is a prerequisite for discipleship. In my second article I suggested that parishioners who have undergone conversions be given venues to share their stories with other members of the parish. My July e-Scribe article offered some ways in which elements of the catechumenate could be adapted to comprehensive parish-wide adult faith formation. Below are yet a few more ideas to consider incorporating into adult faith formation. (Numbers in brackets correspond to paragraph numbers in the Study Edition of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults.)

The help of sponsors, godparents, and the entire Christian community. Just as catechumens are invited to undergo a change from an old life to a new one, so it is with anyone who undergoes a serious conversion. Again, whether it is a slow, gradual process, or a "Saul on the way to Damascus” event, “since this transition brings with it a progressive change of outlook and conduct, it should become manifest by means of its social consequences…Since the Lord in whom they believe is a sign of contradiction, the newly converted often experience divisions and separations, but they also taste the joy that God gives without measure." [Decree on the Church's Missionary Activity, 13] Parishioners who are inspired by grace to become intentional disciples find that not only do their priorities change, but, so too, do their relationships. Sometimes they may find that old friends do not accept their new-found interest in living their faith. Jesus' claim that our dearest relationships will be disrupted by our relationship with him (Mt 10:34-37) is true. This is one reason why the most important offices in the RCIA process are that of the sponsor and godparents. These are people "chosen by the candidates on the basis of example, good qualities, and friendship, delegated by the local Christian community, and approved by the priest.  It is the responsibility of godparents to show the candidates how to practice the Gospel in personal and social life, to sustain the candidates in moments of hesitancy and anxiety, to bear witness, and to guide the candidates' progress in the baptismal life." [10,11]

I believe one of the most valuable facets of an adult faith formation process that draws upon the experience of the RCIA might be the use of mentors in a manner similar to the way sponsors and godparents assist catechumens. This relationship already exists in the form of spiritual directors, who, as many lay people will tell you, are few and far between. But I am not proposing so formal a relationship. Instead, I would suggest that we need to put some creative energy into calling forth parishioners with a mature, intentional faith who could walk as companions with others who are interested in deepening their faith. Sometimes this happens spontaneously between parishioners, but it might happen more often if we called it forth and spoke of it as a normal Christian experience. Jesus sent his disciples and apostles out in pairs, after all (Lk. 10:1ff).  Perhaps this was so they could offer each other solace when the mission did not go so well, or so that they could celebrate successes with another. Such relationships can be fruitful because of Jesus' promise that where two or more are gathered in his name, he would also be present (Mt. 18:20).

Sponsors and godparents who have taken their office seriously will often comment how much they gained from the experience. As they share their faith, their struggles, and their prayer life with a candidate or catechumen, and as they see that person's desire to grow in faith and in a deeper relationship with Jesus, a wonderful, mutually beneficial bond centered on Christ is formed.

Many Catholics will be appalled at the idea of mentoring, or even journeying with, another person of faith. "I don't know my faith well enough! I'm no saint! It wouldn't be humble" are among the protests I would expect to hear. Unfortunately, there are few, if any, books on mentoring written by Catholics. George Weigel's book, Letters to a Young Catholic, may allow Mr. Weigel to act as a personal mentor to someone, but he is not likely to be available for dialogue. One book I have read on the subject (o.k., the only book) that outlines the basics of mentoring and makes it seem possible and even enjoyable, is The Heart of Mentoring, by Robert Tamasy and David Stoddard. While it is generally aimed at mentoring in a non-religious environment, (although one chapter encourages evangelizing one's mentoring partner) its principles are sound. Intentional disciples would be excellent mentor candidates, and could be instruments of God's grace in helping to form other intentional disciples. Parishioners with pastoral charisms like encouragement and helps, or communication charisms like evangelism, would be supernaturally empowered to be of help to others seeking a deeper relationship with Christ.

Priests and deacons have an important role in the RCIA process, as they have "the responsibility of attending to the pastoral and personal care of the catechumens, especially those who seem hesitant and discouraged." [13, 15] A pastor of a large parish may not know when a person in their parish is discouraged, but their mentor or spiritual companion would, and could encourage them to take advantage of the pastoral care offered by the clergy, including reconciliation and the anointing of the sick.

An example of mentoring. When I was the director of the Catholic Campus Ministry at the University of Oregon, I found my time being overwhelmed by the large number of engaged couples I was shepherding through the FOCCUS Inventory. While it is a wonderful tool for helping couples to communicate, especially about areas in their relationship in which they may be in disagreement, it is a time-consuming process often involving six to eight hour-long meetings with each couple. I began to suspect it would be more effective if married couples met with the engaged. With the help of some videotapes provided by FOCCUS and a great coordinating couple, we formed eight couples who began to meet with the engaged. I was delighted with the results, most of which were unexpected. While the time I spent with the many couples we prepared for marriage decreased (as I had hoped) the connections made between the mentor couples and the engaged became significant in many cases. What I discovered was

  1. the engaged couples began to see the importance of faith in relation to marriage because of their connection with a Catholic couple who lived their faith and also seemed quite normal;
  2. the engaged couple now had a connection to the parish through the mentor couple where there often had not been one before;
  3. the engaged couple usually invited the mentor couple to their wedding, and in many cases, remained in contact with them after the wedding, even when they moved from Eugene;
  4. the mentor couple gave an example of Christian charity, since they gave of themselves to strangers with no strings attached and without remuneration;
  5. the mentor couples were invited to continue the relationship, and were occasionally called upon later when the newly married couple had questions with regard to faith, child-rearing, and communication issues;
  6. the mentor couples said their own marriages were enriched.

One of the most powerful ways we can cultivate a culture of intentional discipleship is through getting people together in pairs to share their journey in faith.


Suitable liturgical rites. As individuals attempt to respond to Jesus' call to conversion, some may recognize areas of sin, bad habit, and addiction over which they seem to have little control. Certainly regular confession should be encouraged among all the faithful, and will be practiced by those who are becoming intentional in their following of Christ. But the Church has other means to help purify and strengthen with God's blessing those on the journey of faith. [75]

The period of the catechumenate includes minor exorcisms, anointings and blessings. While contemporary American Catholics may be slightly uneasy with the explicit recognition of the existence of the demonic, it is important to acknowledge that there is a real struggle between good and evil that takes place in our lives, and that there are spiritual forces of evil that can have a harmful effect on the conversion process. A part of adult faith formation could easily include anointings and blessings to strengthen and heal the woundedness that is a part of every human life. So that we move away from the idea that formation is simply an intellectual process, individuals could be encouraged to seek anointings and blessings when they find themselves struggling to deepen their response to Jesus. The anointing would not normally be the sacrament of the sick, but a sacramental used to help overcome some vice, habit, or spiritual or emotional bondage. As we read in the RCIA, "anointing symbolizes [the catechumen's] need for God's help and strength so that, undeterred by the bonds of the past and overcoming the opposition of the devil, they will forthrightly take the steps of professing their faith and will hold fast to it unfalteringly throughout their lives." [99]

Blessings, like anointings, call upon God's power to help free us from the influence of demonic forces, preserve and restore bodily health, and offer various other temporal or spiritual benefits, according to the intentions of the Church and the graced cooperation of the person receiving them. The many formulae used in the RCIA could be adapted for the baptized, or appropriate blessings could be taken from the Book of Blessings. The use of these sacramentals are also catechetical moments, giving the priest who administers them an opportunity to discuss their nature and efficacy.
The various rites associated with the catechumenate almost universally include intercessions on behalf of the catechumens. In my travels around the country, I have noticed that many parishes have prayer lists, or even books of prayers handwritten by parishioners that are acknowledged in some way during the prayers of the faithful. But seldom, if ever, do I hear an acknowledgment that any of those prayers have been answered, with the exception of the extemporaneous petition, "In thanksgiving for answered prayers." We need to celebrate and give thanks for specific answered prayers.  We long to hear of how God is responding to our prayers, or the prayers of others. We need to develop our trust that God does enter the world and change it. Otherwise, we begin to presume that prayer is ineffective, or we attribute answered prayers to chance, luck, or simply our own hard work.

One way we can build an atmosphere of intentional discipleship is to ask God specifically to inspire us to conversion and intentional discipleship. Such prayers could be part of Mass or of any and every gathering of the faithful.  It can become the focus of the community that forms around daily Mass, adoration, the communal recitation of the liturgy of the hours or the rosary or other devotions. Then the testimonies to conversion that I am encouraging us to reclaim as a part of our Christian heritage will rightly be seen as answers to our prayers.  

Active Membership in the Church. All of these resources that are found in the period of the catechumenate are meant to foster active membership in the Church. One aspect that is not explicitly a part of the RCIA process for the non-baptized is the discernment of charisms, since they have not necessarily received any charisms yet, and because their experience of Christian living may be fairly short. But when we are forming baptized adults and fostering intentional discipleship, people will begin asking, "What does God want of me?"  That question is best answered through the discernment of charisms.

As people begin to discern, whether with the help of the Called & Gifted workshop or not, they will very often turn to the local Church community as a safe environment in which to utilize those charisms.  In some cases, they will approach the pastoral staff with new initiatives for within the parish. We can encourage and foster this creativity, particularly if it seems to be directed towards the formation of other adult disciples.

The Liturgical Season of Lent. The Bishops encourage a catechesis of adults that reflects the liturgical year, and thus it would seem that Lent would be an appropriate time to intensify the call to repentance and reflection upon one's life in the light of the Gospel.  In most parishes, this happens in a fairly individualistic way.  Communal penance services with individual confessions are a nod in the direction that we need conversion as a community, but more might be done.  Just as Lent is a period of purification and enlightenment for the candidates for full initiation and the catechumens, it is also a period of renewal for the rest of the Catholic community. Small group faith sharing programs such as Renew and Disciples in Mission utilize the penitential season of Lent to invite parishioners to reflect together on the scriptures and apply them to their lives. But it might be possible to invite an entire community to reflect on how our choices as a body of people affect those around us.

For example, one year a deeply committed Catholic farmer, Paul Atkinson of Laughing Stock Farm, approached the staff at St. Thomas More Newman Center Paul Ain Eugene with an idea for Lent. He suggested that we study as a community the effects of globalization on food production, as well as discover what foods were being grown in our local area. Each week we had an evening presentation and discussion by local farmers, university professors, and other local resources, preceded by a simple potluck meal made from local produce. We learned about how our incredible selection of foodstuffs throughout the year had economic ramifications in developing nations as well as global environmental effects. Our Sunday bulletin included recipes for vegetables, grains, and varieties of mushrooms that were plentiful in Oregon's Willamette Valley in early spring, information about local farms, food production and distribution, and the connection between fasting from non-local food, prayer, and almsgiving. Many parishioners found the whole experience challenging, and many said they approached their shopping, food preparation and eating with a greater sense of mindfulness.

One of the spontaneous outgrowths of this community-wide experience was the decision to participate in community supported agriculture (CSA). In a CSA program, a farmer grows food for a group of local residents (called "shareholders" or "subscribers") who. at the beginning of each year, commit to purchase part of that farm's crop. The shareholders thus directly support a local farm and receive a low-cost weekly or monthly supply of fresh, high-quality produce. The farmers receive an initial cash investment to finance their operation and a higher percentage of each crop dollar because of direct delivery. Both parties jointly share the benefits and risks. In our case, a local farm delivered plastic bins of fresh produce to our church door once a week, and neighbors and parishioners who had subscribed that year came to fetch the delicious, fresh produce. The following week the empty bins would be collected and new, full bins would be dropped off.

The Lenten experience also inspired me to set aside a part of our backyard to a small garden, which produced an abundance of lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, basil and other herbs for our Dominican community table. That project helped people to connect their faith and values to an area of their lives – shopping for food and eating - that previously had been outside the realm of faith. Pope John Paul II emphasized in Christifideles Laici (The Lay Members of Christ's Faithful People) that the formation of Catholic lay people for the apostolate should be a priority in every diocese, with the aim of promoting the integration of the lay person's religious and secular life. "There cannot be two parallel lives in their existence…Every activity, every situation, every precise responsibility…are the occasions ordained by providence for a 'continuous exercise of faith, hope and charity.'" [CL 59]

The final goal of adult faith formation is not simply active membership in the local church community, but the preparation of adults to act as disciples in mission to the world.  Adult faith formation has not been successful unless the participants recognize that "in the various circumstances of daily life, even as in the apostolate, all the followers of Christ have the obligation of spreading the faith according to their abilities."[9] Catechumens and candidates in the RCIA are preparing for full initiation into the Church, which includes the sacrament of Confirmation. In Confirmation we complete our Christian initiation, receive the seven-fold gifts of the Spirit to help us in our following of Christ, and we receive spiritual strength and special graces to help us better witness to Christ in the world. My experience in ministry has led me to believe that a significant number of adults in our parishes have not been confirmed, yet few parishes seem to have a process for adults to be confirmed. While resources abound for youth and teen confirmation preparation, there do not seem to be any that are geared for adults. Adult Confirmation makes sense as a part of adult faith formation, and all of the elements I have been mentioning would naturally prepare an adult to receive the sacrament. What would needs to be added is information about the rite itself, its spiritual effects, and reflection by the adult confirm and on the significance of the sacrament for their life of faith.

Perhaps the greatest obstacle to Catholic adults accepting their mission to the world, besides the lack of intentional discipleship, is the fact that many parishes do not have a clear understanding of their corporate mission to the local community.  A parish is not set up only to minister to the Catholics in its boundaries, but to the whole secular community within its boundaries. Many parishes have a number of outreach programs to the local community, like the St. Vincent de Paul Society, but few have asked people in the local community what their needs are. Holy Apostles Parish in Colorado Springs is preparing to do just that. They will be interviewing local school administrators, nursing home directors, and other leaders to begin to determine what the true needs of the community are. Then they will prepare to respond in a systematic way to those needs, utilizing the charisms, talents, skills and life experiences of the parish community.

Vocation, Vocation, Vocation: Pope John Paul II, in Christifideles Laici, wrote, "The fundamental objective of the formation of the lay faithful is an ever-clearer discovery of one's vocation and the ever-greater willingness to live it so as to fulfill one's mission." Every baptized member of the Church is intended by Christ to be an apostle, sent into the world to live their unique mission. In an excellent book entitled, The Catholic Laity in the Mission of the Church, Russell Shaw considers the nature of personal vocation and its difference from a career. Career discernment begins with the questions, "What will make me happy? How can I organize my life so that I achieve the greatest happiness for myself?" Even if the career discerned serves other people, including a call to ministry, the starting point is fundamentally different than vocational discernment, which commences with the question, "What does God want of me?" Ongoing prayer, reception of the sacraments, spiritual direction or conversations with trusted, honest friends who are intentional disciples, along with a careful consideration of one's interests, talents, and charisms are integral to the discernment of vocation.
Discernment is an ongoing process. Shaw notes that, "personal vocation plays a central role in organizing the life of someone who wants to live according to God's will for him or her. That is because nothing - literally nothing - falls outside the scope of one's personal vocation. People who understand that will strive to make all their decisions in the light of the vocations they have discerned. That, it hardly needs saying, is a lifelong, daily task." (The Catholic Laity in the Mission of the Church, p. 97)

Adult faith formation's goals of conversion to Christ, active participation in the Church, discipleship lived in mission to the world according to God's unique call are ambitious. Achieving these goals will require pastoral creativity and significant, conscientious collaboration between pastors, pastoral staff and the laity. Clearly, if all this is to happen, we need more intentional disciples.  We must begin to a foster a climate of intentional discipleship.  We cannot make discipleship happen, nor can we program it, but we can expect it, celebrate it when it occurs, and hold it out as the norm of what it means to follow Jesus. We can hope and pray for the day when all Catholics will experience the fullness of their initiation and find that "they have truly been renewed in mind, tasted more deeply the sweetness of God's word, received the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, and grown to know the goodness of the Lord.  Out of this experience, which belongs to Christians and increases as it is lived, they derive a new perception of the faith, of the Church, and of the world." [245]

 

 

If you are bilingual in English and Spanish and would be interested in learning how to help Spanish-speaking participants discerning their charisms, or if you are interested in training to become a Spanish language Called & Gifted teacher, please call the Institute office at (888) 878-6789, or e-mail Mike Dillon.


The Catherine of Siena Institute is affiliated with the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, Berkeley, California

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