By Mary Stadnyk | Associate Editor
For Terry Evanko, talking with others about her Catholic faith and the strong, loving relationship she has with God comes naturally.
That is one reason Evanko set out to become more involved in the adult faith formation ministry in her parish, St. George, Titusville, in a more official capacity.
“Adult faith formation is so important because it provides the best standard for living,” said Evanko, noting that in St. George Parish, adult faith formation comes by way of six- to eight-week sessions in the fall and spring, as well as through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and Sunday Family Catechesis.
“It helps people to grow as an individual, in their religion, and it enables parents to be better prepared to set a good example for their children and to understand how important that is to their children,” she said.
Evanko was among the 40 participants from 20 parishes in the Diocese to hone their skills and learn more about ways to engage others and help them pursue a loving, meaningful relationship with God through participation in the first round of a three-part adult faith formation training session.
Many were looking to either become more involved in adult faith formation or wanted to learn something new to incorporate in their current ministry, said Laura Rivas, diocesan associate director of Adult Faith Formation.
Participant Mike Lonie of St. Catharine Parish, Holmdel, smiled when he said he has his own take on what adult faith formation is all about. Instead of calling the name of the ministry adult faith formation, he believes it should be changed to “adult faith lifestyle, because that’s what it really is.”
After sharing how his parish’s adult faith formation team offers a variety of instructional classes, workshops and discussion groups throughout the year, Lonie said he attended the diocesan training sessions “in order to learn what other parishes offer and to share what St. Catharine’s is doing. Sharing knowledge and ideas about AFF in such a setting is also a good way to share our faith with others.”
Adding that he found the presenters to be knowledgeable and thought-provoking, he said, “I believe attending the diocesan-sponsored sessions is a must for those interested in beginning an AFF program in their parish as well as for those who have an active AFF program.”
St. James Parish, Red Bank, parishioners John and Karen Fitzgerald had facilitated small-group sessions up until a few years ago. When John Fitzgerald read that one of the training sessions would focus on small faith communities, he said he “wanted to find out what was new in this area and especially where to find new resources.”
He said he found working as a small group insightful “as we all shared our ideas and life experiences in regard to faith formation.”
Karen Fitzgerald agreed, saying that as the parent of four children, none of whom go to Mass, she believes that “after Confirmation is received, there should be ongoing faith formation for students and young adults. Maybe we wouldn’t lose people from the Church.”
Janice Cuttingham of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish, Avon, said her faith has not only deepened during her 10 years participating in the parish’s Bible study, she was motivated to become more active in the parish as an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, a member of the social concerns [ministry] and now has involvement in Cohort 19. She said she attended the diocesan training to obtain information on preparing AFF offerings for when her parish merges with Ascension Parish in July.
“I think all of the foundational knowledge was helpful to understand the ‘how to’ of developing an AFF program,” she said. “I think the most important aspects of the training are the shared experience of participants. The training is very important because it makes it easier for our parishes and parishioners to assist them in developing the right program to fit the needs of the parish.”
Pleased with the pilot round of AFF training, Rivas said she intends to expand the training twice a year to reach as many people as possible. The training sessions in the fall will be held in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold, on Oct. 27, Nov. 10 and Nov. 17 from 10 am. To 3 p.m. Topics and presenters are: “Jumpstarting Adult Faith Formation Ministry In Your Parish,” with Gary Maccaroni, pastoral associate in St. Ann Parish, Lawrenceville; “Nuts and Bolts of Developing a Parish Adult Faith Formation Ministry, “with Nanci Bachman, pastoral associate in St. David the King Parish, Princeton Junction, and “Creating & Facilitating Small Faith Communities,” with Barbara Rookey, director of religious education in Assumption Parish, New Egypt. More information on how to register may be found at dioceseoftrenton.org/events/aff-ministry-training-fall-2018.
“The overall goal of this training program will be to work toward creating a community where adult faith formation is central and where lifelong formation is encouraged in every parish within the Diocese of Trenton,” Rivas said. “This training provides not only resources to parish leaders but also practical strategies for embedding adult faith formation within the fabric of parish life.”