Lifelong faith formation promotes conscious, active faith lives

April 7, 2015

HOUSTON — To create living, conscious and active faith lives, the Catholic Church believes it is the combined responsibility of parents, Catholic schools and parishes to provide lifelong formation opportunities. Because the parish is the primary experience of the Church for most Catholics, it becomes the preeminent place for the catechesis of adults, youth and children. (National Directory for Catechesis, 60).

Within the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, the Ministry of Sacramental Preparation, which is within the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis and one of the ministries supported by the Diocesan Services Fund (DSF), assists catechetical leaders in parishes, as well as schools, in furthering the evangelizing catechetical mission of a family-oriented, multi-cultural Church of adults, adolescents and children. It provides services to promote lifelong formation so that each person’s faith becomes living, conscious and active. 

According to Juan Moreno, associate director of the Ministry of Sacramental Preparation, sacramental formation is a very important moment in the life of every parish for at least two reasons.

“First, the celebration of a Sacrament and its prior formation is a privileged moment of an encounter with Christ in the process of lifelong faith formation of every Catholic,” Moreno said. “Second, it provides the parish an opportunity to warmly welcome families.”

Moreno said that Pope Francis wrote about this need for openness in the Catholic Church in his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium:
“There are other doors that should not be closed either. Everyone can share in some way in the life of the Church; everyone can be part of the community, nor should the doors of the Sacraments be closed for simply any reason. This is especially true of the Sacrament which is itself ‘the door’: Baptism. The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.” (Pope Francis, #47)

“In Infant Baptism, parents are prepared for their children’s grace-filled entrance into the Christian community, and are called to grow in their own faith, as they are charged with the formation of their children,” Moreno said. “In First Holy Communion, children are prepared for their first encounter with the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, while parents are supported in their role as first and primary educators for their children. In First Penance and Reconciliation preparation, children and their parents prepare to celebrate the gift of reconciliation that Jesus gave the Church.”

Through Confirmation, added Moreno, candidates are prepared to celebrate the outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and their closer relation to the mission of the Church in the world. 

A program currently underway provided by the Ministry of Sacramental Preparation is the implementation of a new process to prepare adults for the Sacrament of Confirmation. Recognizing the need for a more thorough preparation, at Daniel Cardinal DiNardo’s direction, the ministry began implementing the process last fall.

“This process involves a prior formation that is prayerful, more evangelizing in nature, includes a day of reflection, Christian service, and walking with the candidate in the journey of formation through a discernment process,” Moreno said. “The new Confirmation for adult formation process also includes many resources to help parishes in the preparation of candidates. The resources include lessons plans crafted with the help of an educational specialist and the input of many parish catechetical leaders, PowerPoint templates, training videos and many more to come.”

One of the catechists that has been actively involved with the new Confirmation for adult formation process is Amy Schauss of Mary Queen Parish. The parish’s Confirmation team has attended training sessions and worked closely with the Ministry of Sacramental Preparation, under the guidance of Moreno, to implement the new process. 

“The new process was started this year, and so far, I believe it is going very well, especially the discernment process,” Schauss said. “As we welcome these adults who are seeking the Sacrament of Confirmation, we prayerfully discern with each person to encounter Christ where they are in their journey of faith. This allows us to provide what each person needs to move forward to the Sacrament of Confirmation.”

In addition, Schauss said the new process also provides parishes with the resources to create and extend that encounter with Christ into a lifelong faith formation.

Moreno believes the process, programs and services offered by the Ministry of Sacramental Preparation has evolved throughout the years to meet ever-changing needs of the Catholic community.

“The Church recognizes the primacy of adult catechesis, and so we honor parents as first catechists by offering training and resources to form not just children, but parents as well,” said Moreno. “The Church in recent times has called for a new evangelization, and our ministry has responded by forming catechists adept in offering an evangelizing catechesis.”