Form and Be Formed: Drawing the faithful into deeper communion with Christ, each other

November 27, 2018

Parish catechetical leaders gather to become module facilitators for the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis. Photo courtesy of the Archdiocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.

HOUSTON — Adult leaders that help evangelize and form the faithful in parishes across the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston also find themselves personally drawn into deeper communion with Christ and those with whom they serve.

Barbara Aubuchon, director of Elementary Faith Formation at Mary Queen Catholic Church in Friendswood, has been a parish catechetical leader for more than 19 years. She said her own faith formation and spiritual growth was influenced by tremendous support of her pastors, as well as the numerous classes, retreats and professional growth opportunities provided by the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis (OEC).

The OEC is the ministry responsible, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, for educating adults in their faith, forming new leaders, and training new catechists so they may go out and witness to adults and children throughout the Archdiocese. A variety of theological courses, catechetical leader formation and catechist formation programs, quarterly professional growth Days, and annual retreats are offered.

The OEC is one of 60 ministries in the Houston area supported by the Diocesan Services Fund (DSF) annually. 

“The OEC staff does an amazing job of inspiring and supporting the “workers in the vineyard” and gives tirelessly to help us become the best versions of ourselves,” said Aubuchon. “I’ve told my parishioners that I may not know the answer to their question at the moment, but I do know someone who does, and they work in the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis!”

Aubuchon also said the support and guidance of the OEC staff has helped her remain up to date with national ministry trends and stay connected to her peers in the Archdiocese.

According to Julie Blevins, director of the OEC, so far this year, 2,346 people have participated in OEC programs offered in Spanish, and 1,889 people in programs in English.

“Our programs offered in the Spanish language have seen the most growth in attendance and participation this year,” Blevins said. “I believe this is due to the variety of new offerings that we constructed from a cultural translation rather than a literal translation, so they have a greater relevance to the Hispanic leaders and catechists of our Archdiocese. Although just beginning, we also have more involvement in our programs offered to members of our Vietnamese community.”

Dianne Hagerman, volunteer catechist at Mary Queen Catholic Church, said despite being a “Cradle Catholic” and attending Catholic schools, the faith formation classes offered by the OEC have better prepared her to teach her religion and pass on the faith to others.

“By attending OEC’s faith formation classes, I realized how much more there was to learn, and as a result, I have gained more knowledge, which has deepened my faith,” said Hagerman. “The OEC is a home base and a support system for many ministries; not just for the laity who volunteer in those ministries, but also for those in religious vocations. It’s the ‘beating heart’ of our Archdiocese that keeps us going.”

Debbie Jones, associate director of the OEC, said supporting the DSF is critical to helping the OEC continue to operate and offer the variety of programs and services provided.

“The DSF is the source of income by which not only the OEC operates, but by which all the programs that support our Catholic communities operate,” said Jones. “The Archdiocese does not have a weekly collection like parishes. The DSF is used to pay for educational and formational programs, feed the poor, visit and minister to the sick and imprisoned, and serve the Catholic communities in many other ways.”

Blevins agrees, and said that without the DSF, the OEC would not be able to adequately prepare the number of catechists and catechetical leaders needed to form the faithful within their parishes. She also feels the OEC helps nurture the ministers’ personal relationship with Christ and His Church. 

“You cannot feed others if you are not personally fed yourself,” said Blevins. “Donations from the DSF totally funds our office in its operation and ability to offer our ministry formation programs at a very low cost to the participants.”

One of those who benefits, Aubuchon said she understands the importance of supporting the DSF so the OEC remains in operation.

“Without a central source of education and information to feed the many ministers in our Archdiocese, I feel the quality of parish catechetical leadership would suffer,” Aubuchon said. “Parishes are restricted by their budgets and would not have the resources available to provide quality ongoing formation that is offered through OEC at minimal or no cost.”