By Mary Stadnyk | Associate Editor
Not long after Stacey Schear became involved as a catechist in the religious education program in St. Aloysius Parish, Jackson, she realized there was a need for students’ parents and other adults to be formed in the Catholic faith as well.
That was a main reason why Schear became motivated to hone her skills and learn more about helping others pursue a meaningful relationship with God.
“We need to make the Church an important part of their lifelong journey of faith, regardless of their age,” said Schear, who recently completed the third round of adult faith formation training sessions sponsored by the Diocese. “The key is they need to have a relationship with Jesus. Adult faith formation is the seed or the starting point. Whether you are an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, reader, catechist, youth minister or even if you are a Catholic who enjoys sharing your faith, you will benefit from this program.”
The adult faith formation training sessions began last spring, and ever since, participants have found them to be fruitful learning tools. To date, 76 women and men representing 38 parishes have completed the program, which required them to attend courses on three Saturdays. The spring sessions for 2018 and 2019 were held in March, April and early May in the Chancery, Lawrenceville, while last year’s fall sessions were held in October and November in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold.
The impetus for offering the training sessions, according to Laura Rivas, associate director of Adult Faith Formation, was in response to “Together in Mission,” a 2017 diocesan conference and infographic designed by the Department of Evangelization and Family Life that defined the stages of faith formation across one’s life span. Since each age group has different needs, the parish is encouraged to offer different opportunities for participation. The three-part training series gives participants a general overview by hosting workshops with trained presenters including “Jumpstarting Adult Faith Formation in Your Parish,” “Nuts and Bolts of Developing a Parish Adult Faith Formation Ministry” and “Creating & Facilitating Small Faith Communities,” said Rivas.
In his work as pastoral associate of faith formation in St. Leo the Great Parish, Lincroft, and as one who strongly believes that “adult faith formation [should be] at the center of parish life,” Mark Russoniello found the training sessions to be beneficial as he looks for ways to help form parishioners in the faith.
“There are always new and better ways to reach people in our community,” said Russoniello, who described the training sessions as being excellent and on-point with a lot of sharing of suggestions, dialogue and ideas that he looks forward to implementing in his parish work.
After having just completed this spring’s round of training sessions, Schear said she feels confident “now more than ever.”
“We as laity are able to really make a difference with the help of this program,” she said. “I believe this program has helped me with every ministry in the Church, especially with my evangelization skills as a catechist. I am prepared to handle every parish event including greeting people who are not familiar with our Church. I enjoyed the program and recommend it to anyone who wants to see their parish grow and become even better.”
Rivas noted that in the fall, the three-part sessions will be held in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, 61 Georgia Road, Freehold, starting Sept. 25 and will run from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Updated information on dates and on how to register may be found at dioceseoftrenton.org/events/aff-ministry-training-fall-2019.
“The overall goal of this training program will be to work toward creating a community where adult faith formation is central and where lifelong formation is encouraged in every parish within the Diocese of Trenton,” Rivas said. “This training provides not only resources to parish leaders but also practical strategies for embedding adult faith formation within the fabric of parish life.”