Family Faith Formation at St. Matthew’s Catholic Community
Director of Evangelization and Catechesis
What does it mean to be an activated, intentional disciple? Yes, we use the word “disciple” often to refer to those original followers of Jesus, and sometimes we extend the term to refer to anyone who follows a religious teaching. To add to this, we as a parish community at St. Matthew’s have written in our mission statement that it is our goal to “form a community of intentional disciples.” But what does this mean for us today, when we’re not following Jesus from town to town in the same way that the twelve apostles and crowds did, and what does this look like for us here, in this specific Catholic Community in Gillette, Wyoming?
Jeff Cavins, Catholic Bible scholar and evangelist, writes that “as a disciple, you are to follow your rabbi so closely, in all he does, that you are covered in his dust and absorb every single word.” If Jesus is our rabbi, our teacher, and we are to be his disciples, then we must walk so closely with Christ and with one another that our lives begin to imitate his.
This isn’t an easy task. We are given the 7 Sacraments so that Christ can nourish and strengthen us, but we also need the witness of others who imitate Christ to know what the life of Christ looks like in our concrete, everyday circumstances. In a world full of distractions and noise, it takes a dedicated community of individuals and families seeking to imitate Christ and strengthen one another on the journey to make form disciples. And if the world needs Christ to save it, then the world needs disciples to live His mission of love, and a lot of them at that.
So how, then, do we go about forming a community that forms intentional disciples? This year at St. Matthew’s, we are re-envisioning Family Faith Formation (FFF) around this question, and we’re excited to launch our new program this Fall!
After discussion with the Pastor, Pastoral Staff, and the FFF Core Team, we have devised the following principles to guide our program in the year ahead:
- Family Faith Formation and Sacramental Preparation at St. Matthew’s must serve the goal of forming intentional disciples of all ages,
- Parents are the primary and best catechists of their children, but they must be first evangelized and catechized in the Parish community in order to evangelize and catechize their children,
- The Parish supports parents in this role by providing them with access to the Sacraments and opportunities to develop their faith alongside other disciples through intentional, Christ-centered relationships.
You’ll likely notice that adults and parents feature prominently in these principles, as well as a renewed emphasis on community, relationship, and growth alongside others. The conventional classroom model of religious education does not fit well with these priorities, as it does not bring adults together to grow in their faith, and does very little to support them in their ministry as primary catechists of their children.
Therefore, our FFF programs this Fall will have a new emphasis on teaching and equipping adults to grow in and teach the Faith. Recognizing that many parents are busy and desiring to be as flexible as we can to reach them, the typical month in Faith Formation will now be scheduled as follows:
- During the first week of the month, family catechesis meetings will be offered on three nights: Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Each family (parents and children grades K-5 included) would enroll to attend on only one of these nights, beginning September 9th. The evening will begin with a meal, then children and adults would separate into two large groups for catechesis on the month’s theme, allowing each to learn at their appropriate level.
- Adults will also be placed into small groups with other parents that will remain the same from month to month for discussions and to grow in relationship with one another.
- During the fourth or last week of the month, families will be invited to participate all together in a community day event related to the month’s theme with other Faith Formation families. Events will range from nature walks to barbecues, and the focus will be on building connections between families in the Church.
- Between these two meetings, parents will be provided with high-quality materials, including an activity book for children and a parent guide book, full of activity ideas, discussions, and further reading to do at home with their children, related to the month’s theme. Families are encouraged to meet up with other members of their small group to complete these activities.
And that’s it! It is our goal that by investing in our parents and adults and giving them the tools to speak about the faith with their children, we will help to form disciples of all ages who walk with and learn to imitate Christ by learning and imitating what is holy in one another. This model also affords us the flexibility to invite all adults to adult formation nights, giving us a chance to turn Faith Formation into a worthwhile activity that truly supports the whole community.
Second Grade Sacramental Preparation
With these large changes to the mainstream Faith Formation program this year, it is also important to address the shape and scope of sacramental preparation for First Reconciliation and Communion. Second grade sacramental preparation this year will look similar to what it has in the past with a few important changes:
Sacramental preparation will meet on the second and third Wednesdays of the month, but not on the first and fourth Wednesdays. These classes will be 90 minutes.
Once again, our goal is that parents and children be formed together on the sacraments. Accordingly, we ask that at least one parent enroll with the child in the course.
Parents will work with an adult catechist in a separate location from their children to provide catechesis at their level. Children will work in classrooms with children’s catechists.
To coincide better with sacramental preparation at the school, there will be six sessions for each sacrament; First Reconciliation will be completed in December, and First Communion in April.
Importantly, to ensure that no family misses out on the opportunities afforded under this new model, we require that families in sacramental preparation at the parish also enroll in the mainstream Faith Formation classes.
And that is the shape and scope of Faith Formation for the 2019-2020 school year. By investing in our parents and building opportunities for faith-sharing in small communities, we are creating moments when people of all ages can turn and imitate Christ as witnessed in others’ lives. This is the essence of discipleship; that we may imitate what is Holy and follow closely after Christ so that we too may be “covered in his dust,” just as the first disciples. I am excited to launch into this new school year with all of you as we begin to unlock the great potential of our community to live and participate in the mission of Christ!
As the year approaches, we continue to look for volunteers to help with sacramental preparation and as small group mentors in Faith Formation. If you would like to learn more about these opportunities to disciple others and share your faith, or if you have questions about the specifics of the program, you are more than welcome to contact me using the information below. I invite you to pray for the success of our Faith Formation program this year, for an outpouring of the Spirit of service into each of our hearts, and for the courage of our community to follow boldly in the footsteps of Christ, imitating Him in His zeal and mission.
Peace in Christ
Director of Evangelization and Catechesis
Phone: (307) 682-3319 ext. 112
Email: [email protected]