Adult Faith Formation
As adult Catholics, we are sometimes like the apostles on the road to Emmaus. Walking, talking, trying to make sense of where we are, what has happened, and what lies ahead.
Are you interested in Adult Faith Formation:
- for yourself, in the Limerick Area?
- in developing adult faith formation in your own parish?
- would you like to know more about 'Share the Good News', the Irish 10 year plan for Faith Formation for all age groups & peoples?
What is adult faith formation?
Faith formation is not something that happens only in classrooms or at a particular time of life, like childhood. Like the apostles, we can learn if we allow each experience to be blessed by Gods ever present grace. Adult Christians grow in faith in the context of relationships, reflective action, study, and prayer.
Whether we study the Sunday gospels for Advent, learn about the liturgical year for the liturgy group, develop prayer with our families, learn about Mass parts for choir, or engage in a theology course ... we are a pilgrim people, learning about our faith and growing in our relationship with our God.
Who is responsible for adult faith formation?
Adult Faith Formation is the responsibility of the entire parish. In practise, each parish chooses some members to form a parish faith formation group on its behalf. This group thinks about what type of adult faith formation would best suit this community (some ideas here!), and offer one or two events a year to the whole parish. They also link in with the Parish Pastoral Council on a regular basis to ensure continuity. All adults in the parish are called by their baptism to be grown up Christians and to support others in that aim.
Opportunities for Adult Faith Formation in Limerick
The Pastoral Centre offers regular talks series in the centre, as well as tailored talks series in a Pastoral Area on request. Contact us to discuss how we can work together.
There are a number of other communities across Limerick who offer excellent courses and events for those wishing to learn more about their faith.
The Pastoral Centre offers four to six night talks series once or twice a year depending on need. Each series follows a relevant theme. For example:
- October 2007: 8 talks: Foundation in pastoral ministry (also offered in Bruff and in Askeaton in Spring 2007)
- September 2009: 2 talks on ‘where are we now?’ (economics & values)
- October 2009: 3 talks on Christian parenting
- November 2009: 2 prayerful reflection evening remembering our dead
- September 2010: 6 talks: Theology of the Body
- October 2010: 5 talks: The Creed
- February/March 2011: 5 talks: Saints to learn by
- October 2011: Learning from the Prophets: wisdom for today’s world.
Full details of all up-coming talks series are available at the diocesan events CALENDAR.
Sli Philib: Foundation in Pastoral Ministry
In 2007, the Pastoral Development team developed an eight night program for those who were curious about adult faith formation, but didn’t want/need a certified or year-long program. This short program is intended to offer an insight into the breath of learning available to the Catholic, and to encourage adult parishioners to learn more about their faith. It is a step on the journey.
The programs name ‘Sli Philib’ or ‘Philips way’, comes from the scripture story of St Philips meeting with the Ethiopian official (Acts 8:26-40). We were struck by three facts: that Philip meets the Ethiopian where he is at, that they share honestly with each other and that they are open to God’s grace in the present moment. We too are formed in the present circumstance, in our sharing of faith together, when we are open to Gods grace.
This program is offered on request in parishes or Pastoral Areas.
Individual themes may be added or changed on request. A typical eight night series might look like this:
- Baptism: Called and chosen
- Eucharist: Source and summit
- Scripture: The Word of God is Holy Ground
- Our Parish: Called to be the body of Christ in the place we live
- Our Diocesan story: our journey and development over 20+ years
- Parish Pastoral Councils: Visible, local expression of church
- The Christian Life: morality, relationships & faith.
- The Liturgical Year: Understanding the cycle of our public prayer
In the Limerick diocese we are blessed to work with and beside some great animators for Adult Faith Formation. For example:
Mary Immaculate College is an autonomous third level College, linked academically to the University of Limerick, which offers undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Education, Education and Psychology, the Arts and Early Childhood Care and Education. It is Ireland’s largest Catholic college, with a great reputation as a caring institution where there is genuine concern for the individual. It provides the academic, physical and social environment in which not only learning but also personal development are encouraged and facilitated. The College seeks to create an environment where Christian values, personal freedom and responsibility are honoured. Má tá suim agat sa Ghaeilge, beidh an-chuid deiseanna agat an teanga a úsáid nó páirt a ghlacadh in imeachtaí cultúrtha sa Choláiste.
- Department of Theology and religious studies at Mary Immaculate College
The Department of Theology and Religious Studies was founded in 1999. It offers modules for both undergraduate students (as part of the two undergraduate degree courses in Liberal Arts and in Education) and a number of postgraduate programmes (taught and research).
The Department works closely with the Dominican Biblical Centre, and the Benedictine Abbey of Glenstal, and also has many international links with prestigious universities throughout Europe (such as Leuven, Innsbruck) and the United States of America.
Apart from research undertaken on an individual basis by its staff members and research postgraduate students (MA/PhD) the Department of Theology and Religious Studies also has two distinct research specialisms: Culture, Technology, and Values, and, Biblical Studies
Contact Information: Head of Department - Rev Professor Eamonn Conway. Email: Eamonn.Conway@mic.ul.ie. Tel: +353 61 204353.
- NOSTRA program:
NOSTRA is a programme which enables the participant to achieve a College Certificate in Theology and Religious Studies at their own pace and in their own time. The programme is particularly suited to people that have not been in formal education for some time or who may want to enjoy delving into a subject they love in a relaxed and supportive environment. NOSTRA is based in Mary Immaculate College, Limerick but offers modules in many locations, including online modules.
In the jubilee year of 2000 the Dominican Province of Ireland set up the Dominican Biblical Institute in Limerick for the purpose of biblical research and teaching. The Institute aims to advance biblical research, promote global dialogue, especially between the Bible and Science with other disciplines, especially literature and science, thus forming a single multi-faceted story in which all human beings could find a home, bring fresh energy to applying the Bible to daily life (lectio divina), thereby bringing biblical research to street level. The ultimate focus of the DBI is pastoral, engaging with surrounding communities: schools and colleges, church groups and the general public.
Glenstal Abbey is essentially a house of God, which has become home to a community of about 40 monks. Their community life of prayer is combined with running a boarding school for boys, a farm, a guesthouse and various other works. The Abbey welcomes all to join them in prayer (as day visitors or staying at the guest house), and also offersa number of lectures, workshops and seminars or liturgical courses. Click on the title above (Glenstal) to go to their website.
"The catechesis of adults…is the principal form of catechesis, because it is addressed to persons who have the greatest responsibilities and the capacity to live the Christian message in its fully developed form.” From the US National Directory for Catechesis (48)
Most parishes wish to offer opportunities for adults to grow in faith; however many are unsure where to begin. The Pastoral Development team exists to be a resource for parishes. So, if your parish is discussing Adult Faith Formation – perhaps we can connect you with resources, or offer training or support. Contact the Pastoral development team, (Fr Noel and Nóirin), on 061 400133.
The following suggestions may help you in your planning:
Many parishioners will never attend a talk or a course to learn about their faith, but they will grow and be formed in faith as they reflect on and give thanks to God for their daily lives. We can help each parishioner to grow in faith if we offer simple, regular opportunities for reflection and celebration.
For example: It is valuable and formative to reflect together on the truth that that our parish service, when done in Christ’s name, is ministry. We already commission our extra ordinary Ministers of the Eucharist. Consider having an annual gathering that acknowledges and blesses all the following:
- all liturgical ministers (Ministers of Word, Choirs, Altar Societies, etc),
- all those engaged in pastoral ministry (Parish pastoral council, baptism team, visitation group, Vincent de Paul members, bereavement support group, etc)
- all those in Christian education (teachers, Sunday school leaders, etc)
- all those in pastoral care (nurses, doctors, carers, etc)
- all those who serve our youth
Family life and sacraments
Sacraments are not once-off events but an essential part of our life long faith journey. Families journey in faith together, so that each Baptism, First Holy Communion, Marriage and Funeral is something that the whole family is part of, and can learn from.
- Consider each of the seven sacraments that are available in your parish. How can a parishioner learn about the sacrament itself, as well as its availability in this faith community?
- Consider this Confirmation program, prepared by a Limerick team, as a model for whole family catechesis.
- Ensure any sacramental preparation programmes (e.g. Do this in Memory of me, Baptism evenings for parents etc), involve a diverse group of parishioners, are linked to Sunday Eucharist and acknowledge the whole family.
- Many parishes invite parishioners to volunteer as prayer sponsors for those preparing for sacraments. Parishioners volunteer on a particular Sunday and receive 'prayer sponsor card'. On one side the first name of a candidate and the sacrament they are preparing for is listed. On the back a simple daily prayer. Prayer sponsors will committ to pray once a day for that person. There is no need for candidates and prayer sponsors to 'discover' each other at the end - prayer is enough.
Find out about whats available
There are literally thousands of programs and resources available. What most parishes need is a small group who will consider both what’s available, and what’s relevant for this parish: and who will then prepare well to offer that resource locally.
In 2007/2008 a national group looked at what AFF programs were available. The following slideshow offers their findings, including over 40 possible programs that are available to use in parish. Have a look HERE & see if any of these would suit your parish.
Follow the liturgical year
As Catholics, our 'learning about our faith', or catechesis, never starts from scratch. We are a people who gather regularly at Eucharist, we follow a three year liturgical calendar, we celebrate the sacraments throughout our lives. In other words, we are living our faith all the time.
Adult Faith Formation events/courses on liturgy are ideal, but not everyone will be able to attend. So how can we be about on-going, low-level, whole-parish catechesis?! How can we help people to learn as they live? Encouraging a deepening understanding of all we are already blessed with is the foundation of good catechesis.
While Sunday Mass is not the place to have a discussion; it is still a place of learning. If liturgy is well prepared and inclusive, participants learn about God as we pray together. Certain times of the year lend themselves to particular learning and reflection. For example:
Advent: What are we preparing for? Who are we waiting for? Consider offering:
- Reflective prayer spaces for busy people. (Taize, Gregorian Chant etc)
- Lectio Divina based on the Sunday Gospels of Advent, or similar scripture reflections.
- A parish workshop after Mass where parents and children can make an Advent wreaths for the family home. Offer this together with simple family prayers for the lighting of each candle each week.
- Create a scripture based Advent Calendar in your weekly newsletter which people can use for daily prayer in Advent. Consider a one page laminate Advent Calendar that can stay on the kitchen table (thanks to Askeaton parish for that idea!)
Christmas Season: Incarnation, Family, Community, God loves us all.
- Use the parish newsletter to publish our Bishops and other Catholic Christmas messages. Many people never get to read the short and simple Christian teaching on offer in these messages!
- Include family prayers in parish Christmas cards: Grace before meals, New Year’s prayer, Epiphany prayer, etc.
- On Christmas Day, invite all present to come back to Church for a family blessing at the Mass on the feast of the Holy Family. Those away from family can bring pictures of their family. All will be welcomed, all will be blessed.
- Epiphany (6th January). Good news for all. All liturgy this day could include prayers, music, hymns, national costumes and food from all the cultures of our parishioners.
The Season of Lent: Remember who you are. By fasting, almsgiving and prayer we become more aware of Gods great love in our lives. Some of the following help this:
- Create a 4-6 night program of talks or reflections on a Lenten theme.
- Offer Lectio Divina or similar scripture based reflections; based on the Sunday Gospels.
- RCIA – include the simple but profound RCIA rites in Sunday Mass, so all can see those who adults are preparing to be baptised. Be sure to take time to prepare them well according to your communities needs.
- Offer a workshop or talk to explain Holy week – its liturgies, its importance and its theology. Many people have never had the chance to ask ‘but why do we do that that way?!’
- General Lenten resources are available from the Pastoral Development team at the Pastoral Centre. Email: NLynch@ldpc.ie
Holy week: Holy Week is the last week of Lent and contains some of the most sacred liturgies and moments of our Christian calendar. It is a time to include all parishioners in the liturgies, celebrations and prayers of the Church
- Invite all schools, choirs and groups in the parish who will meet this week to have common prayer for this week. (Have one short reflective prayer in the parish newsletter so all can access it).
- A group of parishioners might, in pairs, visit local Catholic school classrooms to explain the liturgies of the week so that teens and children understand what will be happening.
- A newsletter offering outlines of the liturgies and their connectedness / meaning would be helpful to those who don’t like to ask questions but who would like some answers!
- Keep the church open all week, with designated prayer spaces for particular themes (e.g. kneeler in front of prayer space which changes from Lenten desert garden, to oils from Chrism Mass displayed, Good Friday Cross, Easter garden with empty tomb)
Easter Season: the season of thanksgiving for all God has done for us
- An ideal season for gathering those in ministry to review and celebrate their Christian service. (St Vincent de Paul members, Ministers of the Word, etc)
- Create an Easter garden prayer space where petitions of gratitude and thanksgiving can be written and placed in the empty tomb.
- Celebrate Pentecost very well! Music at all Masses, the Gospel might be read or printed in all the languages of the parish, all the newly baptised and confirmed might be invited back to this feast of the Holy Spirit.
- Celebrate all the feasts of the Easter Season well – encourage liturgy groups, choirs, florists etc by offering a workshop on the season in advance. Their pastoral formation in ministry benefits everyone.