The US Bishops urge “Organizing for Adult Faith Formation” in Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us. So here we are, looking at The Pastor and Other Pastoral Leaders. As we look at this role and those of the adult formation director, committee, and catechist, the bishops have given an objective followed by indicators–detectable signs for the parish effort.
Can you say this about your parish leadership?
The pastor and other pastoral leaders will demonstrate a clear commitment to the vision and practice of lifelong growth in Christian faith. (127)
I once served in a diocese that had an annual combined clergy-lay conference–a day-long effort with a variety of topics and speakers from year to year. I attended as a practice, even if the topics didn’t address an area of interest. But I knew an otherwise fine young priest who never attended. I asked him about a specific gathering once. He shrugged and moved to another topic. I think a problem for many Catholic lay people is that some might see graduation from a Catholic school or participation in a sacramental preparation program (confirmation, marriage, baptism of their first infant) as sufficient. Like the Pink Floyd song expressed, “We don’t need no education.”
The GDC might differ from that view; that document is quoted directly:
Experience bears out that the quality of catechesis in a community depends very largely on the presence and activity of the priest. (225)
As a lay member of a parish staff, I always felt it was incumbent on me to be prepared for new horizons, curious about other theological disciplines, and ready to learn something new. OHWBWU also suggests the boss sets the tone for his staff and “ensures that all staff members promote adult faith formation as a parish priority.” (128) I can get on board with that.
We move to indicators of parish success.
- policies and procedures that give priority to the vision and practice of adult faith formation. (129)
- parish staff members promote and support the faith formation of adults, and they encourage parish adults to participate in basic and continuous education in the faith. (130)
- the parish places adult catechesis at the center of its stated mission and goals, and it promotes the importance of adult faith formation at every opportunity. (131)
- adult faith formation (gets) priority in the allocation of financial resources, in providing learning space, and in parish scheduling. (132)
- provid(ing) access to various available learning resources and opportunities for adults. (133)
The bishops devote a bit of ink to each of these. They remind us that faith formation is a responsibility of ordination, directly, or by delegation (129). Encouragement is also part of the plan. Not only personal encouragement but providing material resources, meeting space, budgeting priorities as well (132).
That “lifelong journey” of faith is mentioned. I don’t know any better way to describe it. Leaders of all sorts, even those outside of faith formation (parish councils and other groups are mentioned), should be practitioners.
Paragraph 134 also offers a nod to “the resources of the wider community, especially diocesan conferences for catechists and pastoral leaders, programs presented in neighboring parishes or … colleges, night schools, adult or continuing education programs, and distance learning programs.”