Adult formation deepens faith, discipleship to answer Christ’s call

December 28, 2021

A session of Formación Para el Ministerio Cristiano was held at St. Jerome Catholic Church in 2019. (Photo courtesy of the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis)

HOUSTON — The universal call and duty of Christians worldwide to build up the Kingdom of God starts at home — with the local Church and families. Catholic adults in the Archdiocese have the opportunity to study basic theology and foster spiritual development to go deeper into their faith and gain a better understanding of their baptismal call to service as mature disciples.

The core faith formation program offered by the Archdiocese’s Formation Toward Christian Ministry (FTCM), or Formación Para el Ministerio Cristiano (FPMC) in Spanish, is part of the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis (OEC). For over four decades, the ministry has provided authentic Catholic teachings taught by approved instructors with masters or doctoral degrees in theological disciplines.

Both in-person and online, formation courses provide a solid introduction to Scripture, doctrinal theology, moral theology, liturgical theology and Church history. Faculty members are professors from the University of St. Thomas, theology teachers from local Catholic high schools, pastors specializing in certain areas of systematic theology or Scripture, Chancery employees, and adult faith-formation leaders in parishes.

According to Brian Garcia-Luense, associate director of OEC, the FTCM/FPMC was formed to unite the efforts of several offices and ministries within the Archdiocese to provide a single quality introductory formation program for people involved in a number of parish ministries, including catechists, catechetical leaders, youth ministry leaders and Catholic school teachers, among others.

He believes the formation programs, as well as Days of Reflection that are offered to help participants integrate what they learn into their own spiritual life and ministries, encourage evangelization and formation of Christian discipleship that benefits the local and domestic Church.

“I believe the participants themselves grow as Christian disciples through their increased knowledge and the intentional opportunities to reflect and integrate that knowledge into their own spiritual lives,” said Garcia-Luense. “Faith seeks understanding, and increased understanding should lead to a deeper and more mature faith, but the impact of FTCM/FPMC in the Archdiocese is much broader than just those who participate in the program directly. The primary purpose of the program is to provide formation to those in parish ministries and encourage better ministers in whatever capacity they serve.”

Adrian Alberto Herrera, associate director of OEC and leader of the Spanish program, agrees.

“I have seen people grow as Christian disciples and feel better equipped to put into practice what they learned back at their parish, either as a catechist, liturgical minister, etc.,” said Herrera. “By the end of the program, participants are committed and want to learn and become more fully engaged at their parish. This program helps people not only grow in their knowledge of their faith but also reflects on their particular calling and how they are supposed to use their gifts and talents for the betterment of their parish community and at home.”

Efrain Hernandez, a volunteer at St. Albert of Trapani Catholic Church, said the formation program has encouraged him to grow and learn more about his faith.

“It really encouraged me to learn more about God, about Church doctrine, and the Church,” said Hernandez. “The experience I’ve gained has helped my family, especially when sharing the faith with my children. I feel that I have been empowered from what I have learned about my faith to share with others.”

While he enjoyed all of the courses he took, Hernandez said his favorite was the Christology Course.

“The impact was greater than the others because I learned so much about Jesus of Nazareth that led me to buy another book on Christology to go deeper into this area,” Hernandez said. “I would recommend this program to my brothers and sisters in Christ who must know the richness of our Catholic faith, including Scripture, Mother Mary, and most importantly, to know and love God. Now, I can say that I also really enjoy participating at Mass.”

For Stephanie Zayouna, another participant in the formation program, the Catholic Beliefs course and Church History course were her favorites.

“I would highly recommend these courses to anyone who wants to gain a better understanding of Church teachings and history, and I believe almost everyone could learn something new,” Zayouna said. “The instructors have all been very knowledgeable and engaging. They are also very open to answering questions.”

Zayouna said in addition to growing in her understanding of the Catholic faith and teachings, the program has made an even bigger impression on her formation as a disciple and willingness to share her faith.

“From a personal standpoint, as someone who was away from the Church for a number of years, FTCM has been an integral part of a new foundation as I grow in my own faith,” said Zayouna. “This has also allowed me to help my own children grow in their understanding of our faith as their questions arise. Furthermore, I am encouraged to become more involved in our Church as I find opportunities to do so.”

As one of 60-plus ministries benefiting from the Diocesan Services Fund (DSF), Zayouna believes it is important to have the support of the faithful in the Archdiocese so these quality educational opportunities and others offered by DSF-supported ministries may continue to be available and accessible.

“I truly believe that we are very fortunate to have these programs available to us in our area, not just for those who are actively teaching, but also for any of us who are seeking a better understanding of Sacred Scripture, Church teachings and our shared history,” said Zayouna.

Garcia-Luense said while participants pay a fee to take the courses, these fees typically cover only the cost of paying the instructors, so the DSF is critical.

“All the costs of maintaining and administering these programs are borne by this Archdiocesan office and so supported by DSF,” said Garcia-Luense. “We would not have access to the virtual platform we are currently using without DSF. Adrian and I would not be able to dedicate the time we do to these programs without DSF.”