Do You Need Lifelong Faith Formation? The answer is YES!

04-30-2023Pastor's LetterNanci Lukasik-Smith, Director of Catechesis

Last Sunday during the homily, Fr. David, invited the congregation to join him at the Becoming Catholic sessions, which he holds on Sunday afternoons. His summons included the opportunity for all to join him in asking questions about faith and, I am sure, through the answers, one would understand this was an inspiration from the Holy Spirit to live out our individual call to Universal Holiness by the Divine. The question one might be wondering is,

“What has this to do with me?” “I have received all my sacraments.” “I attend Mass regularly, why do I need extra formation?”

For a better part of my career in ministry, this has also been a question parents ask for their own children’s formation too. “My child(ren) are not in need of regular catechesis, because they have received their sacraments.” To that I respond that is still not enough. The reception of the Sacraments are not “graduations” from formation, rather, that time is just the beginning of formation and learning how to use the gifts that were sealed in Confirmation. Our Catechetical program is designed to bring children into small group communities and to form relationships with other children that mirror our Catholic faith. Its focus is on the Sunday readings, the teachings of the Church, Catholic Doctrine & dogma, Christian Anthropology, Sacramental Theology, and discussing or offering encouraging ways they can live their faith outside the confines of our Parish campus.

People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it. But Jesus called for them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” LK 18:15-17

The parents of children in the catechetical program show they live the faith to the fullest in their own domestic churches. They share it, they live it through prayer and penance, and invite their children to encounter Christ at every opportunity they can. This is a powerful statement of dedication to their faith and family. However, the program at Prince of Peace is designed to move the children into discussions about the weekly readings with their peers and are guided by the Catechists. It enhances what the parents do at home. After all, the parents ARE the primary formers of the Faith, and attest to this at their child(ren)’s baptism. We assist with the conversations. They recognize that it goes beyond reception of the sacraments, but catechesis helps their children grow in their personal relationships with Jesus Christ through the program.

Many years ago, and prior to me attending a master’s program in Theology, I asked a wise priest, Fr. Don, “How do I respond to the parents who think the sacraments, or any life-long formation doesn’t apply to them?” Truth be told, I too, had the same question brewing in my heart, “why do I need to attend more formation classes as an adult?” I had already been a catechist for many years, and the thought of attending ‘more’ was overwhelming. At the time, we had three small children, and a husband who traveled all of which made attending sessions difficult.

Additionally, I felt like I kept hearing the same thing, over and over in these classes, and I was spending more time clock-watching in these sessions than listening. In charity, he simply stated, “Instead of thinking of it as ‘I have heard the same message over and over, think of it as ‘SINCE, I am hearing this message again, what is God trying to share and where is He leading me?” Then he extended the invitation to go deeper by saying, “the next time you walk into a formation gathering, and even if you had heard it before, what is it that stands out to you, and how will you pray about it.” Genius!

As part of the graduate level program, we are required to take additional monthly formation and attend retreats. During these sessions we gather and are invited into conversation regarding the subject matter presented for that day. Each time I participate, I reflect on the wise comments of Fr. Don, and participate through the lens he recommended. It opened a whole new world for me. Even though the subject matter may be familiar to me, I ask myself, “what am I taking as a new or as revised thought about the subject?” I now look forward to attending formation sessions. They help me, and can help you too, grow in your relationship with Jesus Christ.

So, how do these examples pertain to you? Perhaps you are retired or are a parent with children who have received the sacraments already but are not in Catechesis. Receiving the Sacraments are not a stopping point, but an invitation directly from Jesus, to continue the spiritual journey and grow in our relationships with Him. Our goal should always be moving towards holiness, being in a relationship with Jesus Christ and living as disciples, spreading the Gospel message. We are not called to slack off, or to forget that formation is ‘growth’ in our relationship with God. And, just like little children, Jesus calls out to us to participate in that growing connection and the call of discipleship.

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” MT 28:16-20

Fr. David hosts the Becoming Catholic sessions on Sunday at 3:00 p.m. each week in St. Michael’s Hall. This is open to all adults in the Parish, or those inquiring about the Catholic Faith.

Our Children/Youth Catechesis offers summer Vacation Bible School from July 10-14, and the nine-month formation sessions are from September to May. Registration is now open for both.