Ministry of Faith Formation
“The parish is, without doubt, the most important locus in which the Christian communityis formed and expressed…[It is] the prime mover and pre-eminent place for catechesis.”
General Directory for Catechesis
Congregation for the Clergy, 1997
During the last twenty-five years parish faith formation has broadened and deepened into a more comprehensive ministry, which encompasses the ongoing process of lifelong formation. These terms reflect the growing understanding that following Christ, being a disciple, is a lifelong challenge, an ongoing process of conversion, not only involving the mind, but the whole person.
Faith formation describes the process of discovering, knowing oneself, examining, and appreciating God’s gift of faith. While the process is described as sequential, we must also remember it is overlapping, ongoing, and lifelong. Appreciating faith leads to deeper discovery, which leads to better self-knowledge, and continued examination. This is an ongoing lifelong process.
Evangelization means creating an atmosphere of trust and welcome where people feel comfortable enough to share themselves, recognize their own goodness, and come to know others who are living the Christian life. It means building relationships. Evangelization is also sharing faith and witnessing within those relationships. It is proclaiming, not explaining, the Good News. Finally, evangelization leads to a more formal catechesis, teaching the faith including Scripture and Catholic Doctrine. It is important to remember, however, that if evangelization has not taken place then this faith formation can become simply academic.
If we hope to offer effective catechesis, we must begin by ensuring we are a welcoming community that provides space and opportunities for people, young and old, to encounter Jesus Christ.
I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since “no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord”. The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms. Now is the time to say to Jesus: “Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace.” Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel, (3)
It is within this welcoming community that we discover, unwrap, explore and appreciate the great gift of faith God has provided. The General Directory for Catechesis (GDC) tells us that faith formation is a gradual activity, and suggests the catechumenate process as our primary model of catechesis. (GDC #88-91)
Catechesis places a strong emphasis on basic Catholic literacy.
“Catechesis is an essentially ecclesial act. The true subject of catechesis is the Church which, continuing the mission of Jesus the Master and, therefore animated by the Holy Spirit, is sent to be the teacher of faith”
It is rooted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, (CCC) an important resource for parish leaders. Its “four-part structure develops the essential aspects of the faith” (GDC #122): belief in a Triune God and the plan of salvation; sanctification in the sacramental life; loving God with all one’s heart and one’s neighbor as oneself; prayer while waiting for the coming of the kingdom and meeting God face to face.
The ultimate objective of faith formation is discipleship. The parish facilitates the work of the Spirit by helping the individual hear and respond to God’s loving call to a personal relationship, lived out in a faith community that witnesses to all in words and actions the Good News that is Jesus Christ.
We are each responsible for our own life of faith. God invites us into a personal relationship of love, but it is up to us to respond. When we say, “Yes” we begin a journey of faith that lasts a lifetime. We are not, however, alone on the journey. We discover the path and walk the road in communion with others. The Church, which continues the mission of Jesus, lights the way. Through its ministry of catechesis, the parish helps people’s faith become “living, conscious and active” (NCD #32). The parish itself serves as catechist, offering a living witness of the Good News through its liturgy, its communal life, and its service to others.
“Catechesis is nothing other than the process of transmitting the Gospel, as the Christian community
has received it, understands it, celebrates it, lives it and communicates it in many ways.”