Adult Faith Formation
This page is under construction – as this page grows, new info will be added at the top.
Updated 8 Oct 2009
Well, I haven’t updated this page in awhile. I wasn’t sure what to add to it. The pastoral plan, below, from the USCCB, is a great outline; it covers every aspect of faith formation, but it involves dedicated parishes and staff. And, well, everybody seems to be too busy with other things, at least in my neck of the woods.
But, on a happy note, we can do our own Faith Formation! It’ll take time and effort, but we would need to do that anyways if our church had an adult faith formation program. And no matter how good the church’s program is, the bottom line still goes back to how much we put into learning our faith. Faith is a relationship with God, and like any earthly relationship we have to work at it. And those relationships don’t just happen overnight either. We need to spend time with God, and we do that with prayer and reading Scripture.
I get the Magnificat magazine each month. For me, that is where I spend my time with God. It is scripture and prayer and some meditations and insights that help me to comprehend the day’s scripture. The Magnificat is a little expensive, but I really like it. Basically what I am saying is that we need to find a way (a tool, of sorts) to spend time with God each and every day. Listen to Him in the Word. As the relationship grows so does our faith formation. God will direct us if we are open to His direction, His Will.
In an effort to help develop adult faith formation at my parish, I found Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us (broken link – can’t find any longer on USCCB website), A Pastoral Plan for Adult Faith Formation in the United States. Below is the beginnings of an outline of this document. (This document, as with most documents from the USCCB and the Vatican, is directed to the bishops and the clergy. As I find alternate documents this information will be updated accordingly for the layman.)
Has this Plan been applied in your parish? Do you have adult faith formation in your parish? Do you participate in adult faith formation? What kind of program do you have? What would you like to see in an adult program of this nature? Please leave a comment.
Adult Faith Formation
- youth ministry and catechesis in Renewing the Vision
- young adult ministry in Sons and Daughters of the Light
- social mission of the parish, Communities of Salt and Light
- statement on the laity, Called and Gifted for the Third Millennium
- social doctrine in Sharing Catholic Social Teaching
- In Support of Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools
- Part I with a look at some of the concrete challenges and opportunities that we face
- Part II we describe key elements of mature faith
- Part III we identify three key goals to seek, a number of reliable principles to employ, six content areas to address, and several approaches to follow in providing sound and diversified adult faith formation
- Part IV we focus on the parish as the locus of adult faith formation ministry and identify critical roles of parish leadership and diocesan support
- Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Redemptoris Missio
- USCCB’s national plan for evangelization, Go and Make Disciples
- Pope John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation on the laity, Christifideles Laici
- USCCB’s reflections in Called and Gifted for the Third Millennium envision a laity who are living witnesses to Christ: well-formed in faith, enthusiastic, capable of leadership in the Church and in society, filled with compassion, and working for justice
- Catechism of the Catholic Church
- General Directory for Catechesis with its pastoral principles
- the doctrinal synthesis of the Catechism
- What does mature adult faith look like in those who respond generously to God’s call? The General Directory for Catechesis says that it is “a living, explicit, and fruitful confession of faith.”24 By this, a human being makes a total and free self-commitment to God (DV, no. 7). A full and rich development of these three characteristics is what we aim for in adult catechesis and Christian living.
- Like all living things, a living faith needs nourishment, which the mature adult disciple finds above all in union with Christ—”the way and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6). “This life of intimate union with Christ in the Church is maintained by the spiritual helps common to all the faithful, chiefly by active participation in the liturgy.”26 It is also maintained by:
- frequent reading of the word of God, sacred writings of our tradition, and the official documents of the Church
- involvement in the community life and mission of the Church
- personal prayer
- participation in the works of justice and service to the poor
- the fulfillment of our human obligations in family and society through the active practice of love for God and neighbor
- A living faith is a searching faith—it “seeks understanding.”
- A living faith is keenly conscious and aware of the power and hold of sin in human life
- Throughout this mortal life, a living faith longs for the fulfillment of eternal life
- Adult faith is clearly and explicitly rooted in a personal relationship with Jesus lived in the Christian community
- Adult faith is explicitly connected to the life, teaching, and mission of the Church
- Adult faith is confident because it is founded on the word of God38 and confirmed by the whole Church’s supernatural sense of the faith
- The adult disciple enjoys the fruits of the Spirit which are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22-23).
- Adult faith bears the fruit of justice and compassion through active outreach to those in need
- Adult faith bears the fruit of evangelization
- Three Major Goals
- Invite and Enable Ongoing Conversion to Jesus in Holiness of Life
- Promote and Support Active Membership in the Christian Community
- Call and Prepare Adults to Act as Disciples in Mission to the World
- Plan adult faith formation to serve “the glory of God, the building of the Kingdom, and the good of the Church.”
- Orient adult Christian learning toward adult Christian living
- Strengthen the role and mission of the family in Church and society
- Give adult faith formation the best of our pastoral resources and energies
- Make adult faith formation essential and integral to the pastoral plan of the parish
- Design adult faith formation opportunities to serve the needs and interests of the entire faith community
- Use the catechumenate as an inspiring model for all catechesis
- Respect the different learning styles and needs of participants, treating adults like adults, respecting their experience, and actively involving them in the learning process
- Engage adults actively in the actual life and ministry of the Christian community
- Bring the power of the Gospel into the very heart of culture and cultures
- Let the gifts of culture enrich the life of the Church
- Involve the whole people of God in inculturating the faith
- Let adult faith formation programs be centers of service and inculturation
- Six Dimensions
- Sacred Scripture provides the starting point for reflecting on the faith, while the Catechism of the Catholic Church serves as the “reference for the authentic presentation of the content of the faith”
- As the General Directory for Catechesis states: “The maturation of the Christian life requires that it be cultivated in all its dimensions: knowledge of the faith, liturgical life, moral formation, prayer, belonging to community, missionary spirit. When catechesis omits one of these elements, the Christian faith does not attain full development.”
- 1) Knowledge of the Faith
(See the Catechism, nos. 26-1065; General Directory for Catechesis, nos. 84-85, 87.)
- Recognize communion with Jesus Christ as the definitive aim of all catechesis.
- Explore the Scriptures so that adults may be hearers and doers of the word.
- Become familiar with the great teachings of Christianity (its creeds and doctrines) and their place in the hierarchy of truths—for example, “the mystery of God and the Trinity, Christ, the Church, the sacraments, human life and ethical principles, eschatological realities, and other contemporary themes in religion and morality.”68
- Study the Church’s teaching on the dignity of the human person in its social doctrine, including its respect-life teaching.
- Learn the richness of the Church’s tradition, explore the theological and cultural heritage in which faith is expressed, and gain perspective on contemporary events and trends through an understanding of church history.
- Develop the philosophical and theological foundations of the faith and appreciate expressions of Christian thought and culture.
- Learn the meaning and practical relevance of current church teachings as presented by the pope, diocesan bishop, Vatican congregations, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
- 2) Liturgical Life
(See the Catechism, nos. 1066-1690; General Directory for Catechesis, nos. 84-85, 87.)
- Understand, live, and bear witness to the paschal mystery, celebrated and communicated through the sacramental life of the Church.
- Learn and embrace in one’s life church doctrine on the Eucharist and the other sacraments.
- Acquire the spirituality, skills, and habits of full, conscious, and active participation in the liturgy, especially the eucharistic liturgy.
- Value the dignity of the baptismal priesthood and of the ordained priesthood and their respective roles in liturgical celebration and Christian mission.
- Appreciate and appropriately participate in the Church’s daily prayer, the Liturgy of the Hours, and learn to pray the psalms, “an essential and permanent element of the prayer of the Church.”69
- 3) Moral Formation
(See the Catechism, nos. 1691-2557; General Directory for Catechesis, nos. 84-85, 87.)
- Understand how the “entire Law of the Gospel is contained in the ‘new commandment‘ of Jesus, to love one another as he has loved us,”70 and promote each disciple’s formation in the life of the risen Christ.
- Study the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, and the moral catechesis of the apostolic teachings, and live in accord with them.
- Appreciate the dignity, destiny, freedom, and responsibility of the human person, together with the reality of sin and the power of God’s grace to overcome it.
- Learn how to acquire and follow a well-formed conscience in personal and social life, clarifying current religious and moral questions in the light of faith, and cultivating a Christian discernment of the ethical implications of developments in the socio-cultural order.
- Recognize, defend, and live by the truth of objective moral norms as taught by the Church’s magisterium in its moral and social teaching.
- Promote a thorough catechesis on the Gospel of life so that respect for life from conception until natural death is honored in personal behavior, in public policy, and in the expressed values and attitudes of our society.
- Live a lifestyle reflecting scriptural values of holiness, simplicity, and compassion.
- 4) Prayer
(See the Catechism, nos. 2558-2865; General Directory for Catechesis, nos. 84-85, 87.)
- Become familiar with the diverse forms and expressions of Christian prayer, with special attention to “the Our Father, the prayer which Jesus taught his disciples and which is the model of all Christian prayer.”71
- Experience and appreciate the richness of the Catholic ascetical-mystical tradition as it has taken form across the centuries in diverse historical and cultural settings.
- Develop a regular pattern of personal prayer and spiritual reflection, recognizing vocal prayer, meditation, and contemplative prayer as basic and fruitful practices in the life of a disciple of Jesus.
- Engage in shared prayer with others, especially family prayer, as well as at parish meetings and in small communities of faith.
- Recognize and encourage practices of popular piety and devotion that help believers express and strengthen their faith in Jesus Christ.
- 5) Communal Life
(See the General Directory for Catechesis, nos. 84, 86-87.)
- Pursue personal and spiritual growth in human and Christian maturity.
- Cultivate the human values and Christian virtues that foster growth in interpersonal relationships and in civic responsibility.
- Nurture marriage and family life to build up the Church of the home.
- Share actively in the life and work of the parish, and foster the potential of small communities to deepen the faith and relationships of members, to strengthen the bonds of communion with the parish, and to serve the Church’s mission in society.
- Learn the Church’s teaching on the nature and mission of the Church, including an understanding of the Church’s authority and structures and of the rights and responsibilities of the Christian faithful.
- Support the ecumenical movement and promote the unity of God’s people as a constitutive dimension of fidelity to the Gospel.
- 6) Missionary Spirit
(See the General Directory for Catechesis, nos. 84, 86-87.)
- Cultivate an evangelizing spirit among all the faithful as an integral element of their baptismal calling, of the Church’s nature and mission, and of a Catholic way of life.
- Respond to God’s call whether as lay, ordained, or religious, and develop a personal apostolate in family, Church, and society.
- Motivate and equip the faithful to speak to others about the Scriptures, the tradition and teachings of the Church, and one’s own experience of faith.
- Explore and promote the applications of the Church’s moral and social teaching in personal, family, professional, cultural, and social life.
- Understand the importance of serving those in need, promoting the common good, and working for the transformation of society through personal and social action.
- Appreciate the value of interreligious dialogue and contacts, and promote the Church’s mission ad gentes in the local and universal Church.
- The scope of catechetical content is cognitive, experiential, and behavioral72 and it requires development in “the threefold dimension of word, memory, and witness (doctrine, celebration, and commitment in life).”
- A Multi-Faceted Approach – a comprehensive, multi-faceted, and coordinated approach to adult faith formation is necessary
- Ongoing faith formation can be “accomplished through a great variety of forms: ‘systematic and occasional, individual and community, organized and spontaneous.'”
- 1) Liturgy
- Sunday Eucharist remains the center of the Church’s life
- 2) Family- or Home-Centered Activities
- “Family catechesis precedes . . . accompanies and enriches all forms of catechesis”80—and this applies in any structure or stage of family life.
- Maximize opportunities for adult faith formation to fit into the rhythms of family life and not to pull families apart
- Diocesan newspapers (frequently overlooked for their potential), Catholic magazines, seasonal booklets, monthly calendars, newsletters, periodic mailings, pastoral visits, family prayer and Scripture sharing, home blessings, family-to-family ministry, videos that promote family faith sharing, Catholic websites, and a home-based component in programs of catechesis for children and youth can all provide adults and their families with meaningful faith formation experiences
- 3) Small Groups
- Ecclesial movements and associations that are part of the vibrant life of the Church make great contributions here. We welcome this phenomenon as “a sign of the ‘Church’s vitality,'”83 and have offered guidelines for authentic small faith community development in Called and Gifted for the Third Millennium and in Communion and Mission.
- 4) Large Groups
- Some adults prefer to learn in large group settings. It can be effective and efficient to take advantage of times when adults are already present, as when their children’s catechetical sessions are scheduled. Other settings may include lectures, panel presentations and discussions, group service projects, social events (e.g., Lenten suppers) with a prayer or learning component, ecumenical activities during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, participation in the March for Life on January 22, and working together to provide housing for low-income families or to build or repair parish facilities. We encourage parishes to provide a variety of regular larger group opportunities for adult faith formation.
- 5) Individual Activities
- Materials for personal prayer, study, and reflection are available in print, on audio or videotape, and on the Internet. We need creative ways to make these items more widely known and easily accessible through the use of media. For example, parish bulletins or diocesan newspapers can publicize books or websites, and parish lending libraries or book/tape sales can provide resources to adults. Parishes and dioceses can develop their own webpages or chat rooms, which people can access at any time to engage in a discussion with other people of faith, or find religious news or information about prayer, the Catholic tradition, or current events.
- We encourage all Catholics to spend some time alone with God each day, whether they meditate on Scripture, use printed or memorized prayers, the Liturgy of the Hours, the rosary, meditation and contemplative prayer, or simply dwell in wordless praise in God’s loving
presence. Even five minutes a day devoted to one’s relationship with the Lord can lead to a deepened faith and a more active Christian witness.
- Making adult faith formation a vibrant and fruitful reality in parish life will require the support of a solid infrastructure of ministry in local faith communities.
- For most Catholics, the parish is their primary experience of the Church.
- At the same time, not everyone who seeks to live a Catholic life does so through regular parish membership.
- See the Pastoral Plan for the leadership, core team, and parish and diocese support for this activity