Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us 3-6: Calling and Identity, Plus A Pledge

The US Bishops published Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us in 1999. Paragraph 3 is a significant bit, and includes a very basic statement about the Church’s ministry to adults. Women and men have a “calling and identity.” The bishops identify a threefold and progressive aspect to this:

  • people of faith,
  • contributors to the life and work of the Church,
  • disciples whose mission is to the world.

This is a natural movement in any Christian. First, people are called to faith. Point two has that whiff of old school. While I wouldn’t argue against the support of lay people for the institution and its structures, it tends to obscure the most important calling, that of disciple acting in the world. Support for a parish and diocesan appeal is good. People are always more valuable in what they contribute through their own charisms and abilities.

The bishops rightly recognize this doesn’t happen in isolation. Faith and discipleship requires support. They cite “vibrant parish and diocesan communities” as vital. These communities are supported by catechesis and lifelong conversion. (4)

Adult formation must be the “central task,” though at first it’s hard to tell in the script (5) if the bishops mean central compared to other ways we minister to adults, or as central to the catechetical effort of the institution. Paragraph 6 offers a clarification, which I think nearly all Catholics have yet to see:

To make this vision a reality, we (bishops) call the Church in our country to a renewed commitment to adult faith formation, positioning it at the heart of our catechetical vision and practice. We pledge to support adult faith formation without weakening our commitment to our other essential educational ministries.

Unfortunately, the support for the educational efforts toward children and adolescents has weakened the resolve for adult formation. I’m sure my friend Joyce will offer significant commentary as she wishes. She’s in the thick of the effort. I think many of us were self-motivated in seeking our formation in the 70s through the present day. It’s not an easy path, unsupported as our experience has been.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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1 Response to Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us 3-6: Calling and Identity, Plus A Pledge

  1. Joyce Donahue says:

    Response to the call to prioritize adult formation and make it central in a community has, as I indicated in an earlier comment, had a mixed history since the publication of OHWB. Taking this document seriously, however, can have a positive effect on a parish’s catechetical efforts.

    One of our parishes had its pastoral staff spend more than a year studying and praying over this document. What came out of that was a full family formation approach that, among other results, took seriously the call to connect families in the faith formation program to the entire faith community. (More on that later when we get to the discussion about the community as curriculum.) Although such an approach primarily serves families with children (and a few grandparents) it was a big step up toward lifelong formation for at least a portion of the faith community. In the years immediately following the transition to this approach, the parish reported an increase in Mass attendance.

    The larger challenge, beyond programmatic approaches to child/youth/parent formation, is reaching ALL adults in a community with the kind or evangelizing catechesis that fosters conversion and a full response to Christ’s invitation to a life of discipleship. That approach necessarily includes a mystagogical catechesis to promote a living understanding of how the Liturgy and Sacraments connect us in journeying as a community in Christ. This, it would seem, is a challenge to our clergy to take the opportunities the homily presents and to support the development of ongoing dialog within the community that supports people to grow in that mission and vision

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