In just over a week, we’ll celebrate the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday. On that day, as ashes are imposed on our foreheads, we’ll hear the words “repent, and believe in the Gospel.” The season gives us a chance to look at our lives and ask ourselves where are we going, and what in our lives do we need to change to re-focus on what will never turn to ashes, namely God and the Kingdom of Heaven. To get there requires a response to God’s invitation to follow Him, as we grow in faith, hope and love and learn how to pass on the faith we are given.
It’s especially important for children and youth to learn from an early age just how important God is. Not one of many things in their life, but the most important thing that guides everything else. Of course the message that not just kids, but indeed all of us can get from the world is what matters most is doing what you want, having power, having money, being a success. While there’s nothing wrong with having a good life and a good job or possessions, the problem is these things can take over. A child can become an expert at soccer or get into the perfect school, but if they have no relationship with God, ultimately they are spiritually empty. This is why faith formation is so crucial.
Faith formation starts of course at home. The Second Vatican Council stated in the Declaration on Christian Education: “Since parents have given children their life, they are bound by the most serious obligation to educate their offspring and therefore must be recognized as the primary and principal educators.” That’s why its so important parents help their children to learn the faith by coming to Mass, by praying together, and explaining what we believe and why.
Helping families is the role of the parish. As such, families deserve the best from their parish and programs that will help their children to grow in their faith. The parish is there to provide for the spiritual needs of the people of God. For children and youth, this means we have programs and classes to explain the faith, opportunities for prayer, ways to live out the faith through service, and other ways for the faith to blossom in people of all ages.
Key in this in parishes are those who work and volunteer in faith formation. It’s the responsibility of the faith formation director to develop a program and work with volunteers and staff to help the faith be passed on.
Currently, we are in the process of searching for a director of Lifelong Faith Formation. Esther Jaeger, who had served in this capacity, is no longer a part of our staff. I am aware that she journeyed with many over the years in their faith life, and we wish her the best.
As I come up on 3 full years at Saint Joe’s, I can’t tell you how proud I am to work with a very good, dedicated staff. As we went through this transition, I made it a point to thank the staff for all they do. The Ministry Showcase this week is an example of that, as staff and parishioners come together to help our parish thrive, as was Catholic Schools Week last week which highlighted the good things in our school, much of which comes from very dedicated teachers. We are truly blessed with great people here.
As such, the bar is set high. My hopes for the new director of Lifelong Faith Formation is that they will:
- Have a good knowledge of the faith, and also of people. It’s one thing to know the faith and it’s content, it’s another to pass it on. As my seminary professor said, this the “law of gradualism,” meaning you gently guide people and help them to come to know God and how to respond to God’s love.
- Have great people skills. People do not think of a church as a business, but we are. We are in the business of making saints. It is so important that our staff treat people with kindness, a smile, and make people feel warm and welcome.
- Work well with our amazing volunteers. So many in our parish are so dedicated to faith formation. They serve as a catechist. They come to a Bible study. They sponsor someone for RCIA. They help on a mission trip. This army of people will work with our faith formation director in helping to pass on the faith.
- Come up with new ideas and evaluate our programs. Jesus says “follow me and I will make you a fisher of men” but sometimes you have to go to a different fishing spot and move the boat. Other times you have to use a new lure or try something new to bring in the fish. It’s so important we look at what we do and why we do it, and come up with new ideas and programs so our children and youth are involved.
- Meet people where they are at. Jesus goes out to those in need and we need to do the same. Every family has a different story and is at a different spot on their faith journey; the faith formation director goes out to meet them and invites them to deepen their relationship with God.
As the process unfolds, we’ll make sure everyone is kept up to date. I’ll be conducing interviews with several parishioners on the interview committee. We’ll also continue faith formation in the interim during our search. I have full confidence that there are very qualified, dedicated people out there and as they are coming to an amazing parish, you, the parish, deserve the best. Thank you for your dedication to our parish.
Have a blessed week,