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Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: September 8, 2016
By Father Erik Pohlmeier
Director of Faith Formation
As a pastor I loved to welcome new members onto the parish council. I appreciated their desire to be involved and loved to watch their reactions to learning all that goes on in the parish. It usually came as a surprise to discover how many ways ministry is exercised and how many people contribute to the mission of the parish.
There was often a similar reaction from people in RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults). As people begin to discover just how rich and varied the life and teaching of the Catholic Church is, it can be impressive and overwhelming. I have heard many people wonder aloud how they could possibly learn it all.
This summer I began a new role as director of faith formation for the diocese. It is completely new for me and very different from parish ministry. As I consider just how broad the idea of faith formation is I understand the mix of respect and fear that come with stepping into new aspects of Catholic life.
Parishes should feed those trying to grow in faith and parishioners should cultivate their ability to experience the Holy Spirit at work in them. Many people already know more than they realize and are practicing faith in ways that lead to greater maturity.
In the fullest sense faith formation includes nearly every aspect of growing into mature Catholic faith. In parish life much of the effort goes into preparing for sacraments and catechesis that focuses on children, with hopes of planting seeds of faith that will mature into adulthood.
Many studies, however, reveal that those seeds are not bearing fruit in the ways we hope and all too often young people fall away from the faith as they become adults. Fortunately there are also people who recognize this trend and are searching for ways to address it. Faith formation is a term that is meant to highlight the need for a well-rounded approach to maturity in faith, and one that continues into adulthood.
The best way to pass on faith to children is for the adults in their lives to teach the faith in words and actions. This rarely happens by osmosis. Adults need a plan to explore the richness of the Catholic faith by reading, listening, celebrating, serving and praying. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have laid out a plan that every adult Catholic should pursue.
In the National Directory for Catechesis there are identified “six tasks of catechesis.” Attention should be given to knowledge of the faith, liturgical education, moral formation, learning to pray, growing in community life and working for the mission of the Church. These six tasks lend themselves to evaluating where we are and formulating a plan.
Each parish and each individual should consider how these tasks are being accomplished and where more attention is needed. Parishes should feed those trying to grow in faith and parishioners should cultivate their ability to experience the Holy Spirit at work in them. Many people already know more than they realize and are practicing faith in ways that lead to greater maturity.
Many people also have a sense that they need more and may wonder what to do about it. Faith formation is effort toward these six tasks that can help every person understand what a wellrounded, mature faith looks like. The opportunity for discovery that awaits us is reason for hope.