Faith formation never stops

October 16, 2012

Anniversaries can be significant markers in people’s lives. They mark the passage of time or a celebration of great accomplishment. They are reminders of change and endurance or of loss. We have only just entered into the Year of Faith with the 50th anniversary of the opening session of Vatican Council II and the 20th anniversary of the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. As a Church we have been preparing for these anniversaries, but more importantly for the work that lies ahead. 

It is interesting to look back across the last few decades and consider the waning level of awareness about Vatican Council II, a reflection of Catholic adults somewhat or completely removed from active participation in the faith. We are now, in the year 2012, in hopeful anticipation that the tide will turn and that through the guidance of God’s Spirit, the wisdom of the Church and our increased efforts to evangelize anew, adults, especially parents, will enter more deeply into relationship with Jesus Christ.

Catholic authors Bill Huebsch and Leisa Anslinger have spent a great deal of time focusing on Catholic adults, specifically parents. In 2010, a book titled “Great Expectations: A Pastoral Guide for Partnering with Parents” was published. It is a guide for all those in catechetical ministry, parish and school, to support parents by partnering with them in raising their children in the Catholic faith. There are and have been so many factors that have affected Catholic life in the home. Parents need help. 

It is interesting to consider those factors and the changes they have brought about in Catholic families. In one section of his book, Bill Huebsch takes the reader back to the early part of the 20th century. Up until about 1950, children were formed in the faith solidly in the home. The family lived their faith through regular prayer together, observance of liturgical seasons and practices, display of religious symbols. In the 1960s the western world experienced a major cultural shift. Technological advances and movements for change rocked the family unit. This accelerated in the 1970s to the point that family prayer and those practices of faith in the home became more and more rare. The sisters, brothers, lay teachers and catechists had an enormous gap to fill with few resources. 

The ’80s and ’90s brought an obvious disengagement of adult Catholics with the Church. However, positive changes began take place, through the emergence of the laity with emphasis on formation in catechetical ministry; the development and promulgation of the catechism of the Catholic Church; the good work of the publishers in providing solid resources. 

Now, 12 years into this new millennium, days into the Year of Faith and focused on new evangelization, we know these things. In order to move forward we must place relationship with Jesus Christ at the center of our lives and help others to do the same. We must really mean it and believe it when we say that parents are the primary educators in the faith. We must commit ourselves as Catholic parents to take up our responsibility. We in catechetical ministry must partner with parents offering friendship through support and guidance. We must believe that faith formation helps all of us in a deeper understanding of what it means to be Catholic. It’s not just for children. It does not end at second grade, 11th grade, when we leave our parent’s home or when we marry. Faith formation is lifelong!

Kathleen Kelley is an associate director with the Archdiocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.