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|AA||Apostolicam Actuositatem: Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People|
|ACCC||Adult Catechesis in the Christian Community: Some Principles and Guidelines|
|AN||Aetatis Novae: A New Era. Pastoral Instruction on Social Communication|
|CCC||Catechism of the Catholic Church|
|CCEO||Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches|
|CGTM||Called and Gifted for the Third Millennium: Reflections of the U.S. Catholic Bishops on the Thirtieth Anniversary of the "Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity" and the Fifteenth Anniversary of "Called and Gifted"|
|CIC||Code of Canon Law|
|CT||Catechesi Tradendae: On Catechesis in Our Time|
|DV||Dei Verbum: Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation|
|EN||Evangelii Nuntiandi: On Evangelization in the Modern World|
|GC||Guide for Catechists|
|GCD||General Catechetical Directory|
|GDC||General Directory for Catechesis|
|GS||Gaudium et Spes: Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World|
|LG||Lumen Gentium: Dogmatic Constitution on the Church|
|NCD||Sharing the Light of Faith: National Catechetical Directory for Catholics of the United States|
|PO||Presbyterorum Ordinis: Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests|
|RCIA||Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults|
|RM||Redemptoris Missio: On the Permanent Validity of the Church's Missionary Mandate|
§ 25 § At all times and in every age, the Church faces unique opportunities and challenges as it proclaims the Good News of God's reign. Today is no exception. We offer below a brief overview of some of the opportunities and challenges we see today. This is the context in which adult faith formation must become our chief catechetical priority.
Opportunities and Potential
§ 26 § We live in a diverse multicultural society that offers us a rich experience of how the faith is lived, expressed, and celebrated in our own time. We see in this society a widespread spiritual hunger—a quest for meaning and for a deeply personal experience of God and of community. This hunger helps explain the widespread interest today in new religious movements and in New Age spirituality. In this we see opportunity, for "God is opening before the Church the horizons of a humanity more fully prepared for the sowing of the Gospel."11 People are ready to gather in groups to read the Scriptures, study the teachings of the Church, and talk about the importance of Christ in their lives. They seek out these opportunities wherever they can find them, whether in their own parishes, in ecclesial movements or associations, in small communities of faith, or with people of other Christian traditions.
§ 27 § The world is being reshaped by technology. Not only are computers transforming the way we live and work, they enable many adults to pursue lifelong learning to keep pace with the rapidly changing workplace. Communication technology has also made the world smaller through e-mail, global networks, and increased contacts with other cultures. This globalization of society increases our awareness of and interdependence with other peoples and societies. Adults are responding to these changes by self-directed learning, on-the-job training, and enrolling in continuing education courses in large numbers.
§ 28 § Throughout the centuries the Spirit has guided the Church so that the word would be spread to each generation. Today that Spirit is awakening a new evangelization and a new apologetics. This dynamic movement needs our fullest possible collaboration, so that the Good News of the kingdom of God and the person of Jesus may touch the hearts and minds of all who search for fullness of life. Pope John Paul II's encyclical Redemptoris Missio and our own national plan for evangelization, Go and Make Disciples, call for such efforts, and their success will require adult believers who are eager and articulate in sharing a faith they understand, embrace, and live.
§ 29 § We are entering a period of new vitality for the Church, a period in which adult Catholic laity will play a pivotal leadership role in fulfilling the Christian mission of evangelizing and transforming society. For adults to fulfill their roles in this new era of the Church, their faith formation must be lifelong, just as they must continue to learn to keep up in the changing world.
§ 30 § Pope John Paul II's apostolic exhortation on the laity, Christifideles Laici, and our own reflections in Called and Gifted for the Third Millennium envision a laity who are living witnesses to Christ: well-formed in faith, enthusiastic, capable of leadership in the Church and in society, filled with compassion, and working for justice. The power of God's word, regular prayer, a vibrant sacramental life, lay spirituality,12 the support of the Christian community, and the guidance of the Church's social teaching will enrich and sustain this new era of the laity.
§ 31 § Finally, the gift of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is an indispensable resource in our time for helping adults become stronger in their relationship with God and grow in their knowledge of the faith. It should be in regular use: by bishops, priests, and deacons in their preaching and teaching; by those who write and those who publish theological, catechetical, liturgical, and spiritual books and resources; by catechists preparing to work with adults; and by adults themselves in personal and family study and prayer.
Challenges and Concerns
§ 32 § The Church also faces many concerns and challenges. Secularism, materialism, atheism, ethical relativism, religious indifference, and tensions rooted in religious or cultural pluralism are prevalent in society. Many of our contemporaries question the validity of objective moral norms and deny the connection of freedom and truth.
§ 33 § The dignity and sanctity of human life are threatened through the acceptance of contraception, abortion, social injustice, racism, violence of all kinds, discrimination against women, fear of the immigrant or the stranger, threats to the environment, the separation of personal integrity from public life and work, and increasing tolerance for capital punishment and assisted suicide. There is widespread ignorance, indifference, or opposition to the dignity of persons and cultures and to the full range of the Church's moral and social teaching.
§ 34 § Families experience great stress, overwhelmed by the influence of mass media and the economic pressures that keep some families in poverty and almost require both parents to work in order to pay the bills. Parents look to the Church for guidance and help to grow closer as couples, stronger as families, and better able to prepare their children morally and spiritually for life in this complex and challenging society.
§ 35 § Many Catholics seem "lukewarm" in faith (cf. Rev 3:14ff.) or have a limited understanding of what the Church believes, teaches, and lives. Others may know about the gospel message but have not personally experienced the risen Christ. Still others are indifferent to the Church's guidance or see the Church's teaching in a negative light.
§ 36 § For a variety of reasons, people leave the Church. They may seek out or be recruited into non-denominational, evangelical, or fundamentalist churches, or into New Age or other religious movements. Far too often they simply abandon the Christian faith altogether.
§ 37 § We also acknowledge that, together with successes, some of our catechetical efforts have fallen short. It is time to identify and address these shortcomings and build on our strengths so as to forge a more balanced and mature catechetical ministry. Two contemporary resources to help us in this task are the General Directory for Catechesis with its pastoral principles and the doctrinal synthesis of the Catechism. We must faithfully and creatively adapt both resources to meet both the challenges and the opportunities we face in the United States today.
The Priority of Adult Faith Formation
§ 38 § The challenge of responding to these many needs and opportunities creates a vast pastoral agenda for the Catholic Church. Disciples young and old are called by name to go into the vineyard. In responding to this call, adults "have the greatest responsibilities and the capacity to live the Christian message in its fully developed form."13 Their formation in faith is essential for the Church to carry out its mandate to proclaim the Good News of Jesus to the world. Effective adult formation is necessary to "equip the holy ones for the work of ministry" (Eph 4:12).
§ 39 § We are convinced that the energy and resources we devote to adult faith formation will strengthen and invigorate all the charisms that adults receive and the activities they undertake, in the Church and in society, to serve the Gospel of Christ and the people of today. Every Church ministry will be energized through a dynamic ministry of adult catechesis.
§ 40 § Adult faith formation also benefits children and youth. An adult community whose faith is well-formed and lively will more effectively pass that faith on to the next generation. Moreover, the witness of adults actively continuing their own formation shows children and youth that growth in faith is lifelong and does not end upon reaching adulthood.14
§ 41 § In addition, adult faith formation should serve as the point of reference for catechesis for other age groups. It ought to be "the organizing principle, which gives coherence to the various catechetical programs offered by a particular Church."15 Maturity of faith is the intent of all catechesis from the earliest years. Thus, all catechesis is geared to a lifelong deepening of faith in Christ. How necessary, then, that the catechetical ministry with adults set an example of the highest quality and vitality.
§ 42 § For such reasons as these, the Church wisely and repeatedly insists that adult faith formation is "essential to who we are and what we do as Church"16 and must be "situated not at the periphery of the Church's educational mission but at its center."17
§ 43 § Yet despite the consistency and clarity of this message, the Catholic community has not yet fully heard and embraced it. While most Catholic parishes place a high priority on the faith formation of children and youth, far fewer treat adult faith formation as a priority. This choice is made in parish staffing decisions, job descriptions, budgets, and parishioner expectations.
§ 44 § Once again, we praise the outstanding efforts that have been made for so many years to provide quality faith formation for children. This task is a sacred trust and a serious responsibility that we must always fulfill with utmost care and dedication. We do not wish to weaken our commitment to this essential ministry in any way. But to teach as Jesus did means calling and equipping all Christians of every age and stage of life to fulfill their baptismal call to holiness in family, Church, and society—their mission to evangelize and transform the world into a more caring and just society. Ongoing faith formation is essential to accomplish this mission; it does not end at confirmation or graduation but continues until one's death. Accordingly, we strongly reaffirm that, "without neglecting its commitment to children, catechesis needs to give more attention to adults than it has been accustomed to do."18 Catholic schools and religious education programs will play a vital role in this plan through the quality faith formation they provide to the parents and families of the children they teach.
§ 45 § At the heart of all we are and do as the Church is a revelation of great Good News: God, who is love, has made us to enjoy divine life in abundance,19 to share in the very life of God, a communion with the Holy Trinity together with all the saints in the new creation of God's reign.20 Faith, which is a gift from God, is our human response to this divine calling: It is a personal adherence to God and assent to his truth.21 Through searching and growth, conversion of mind and heart, repentance and reform of life, we are led by God to turn from the blindness of sin and to accept God's saving grace, liberating truth, and sustaining love for our lives and for all of creation.
§ 46 § Christian faith is lived in discipleship to Jesus Christ. As disciples, through the power of the Holy Spririt, our lives become increasingly centered on Jesus and the kingdom he proclaims. By opening ourselves to him we find community with all his faith-filled disciples and by their example come to know Jesus more intimately. By following the example of his self-giving love we learn to be Christian disciples in our own time, place, and circumstances.
§ 47 § God's call to conversion and discipleship unfolds in our lives with immeasurable potential for maturing and bearing fruit. The calls to holiness, to community, and to service of God and neighbor are "facets of Christian life that come to full expression only by means of development and growth toward Christian maturity."22
§ 48 § This maturity of Christian faith can blossom at any age. We see it in children like Samuel who hear and respond to God's word (cf. 1 Sm 3:1-18). We see it in young people like Mary who ponder and say "yes" to God's call (cf. Lk 1:26-38). We see it in adults and marvel especially at the beauty of faith in those who have persevered in following the Lord over the full course of a lifetime: "They shall bear fruit even in old age, always vigorous and sturdy" (Ps 92:15).
§ 49 § To provide effective adult faith formation requires first of all "the accurate identification of the typical characteristics of Christian adults."23 What are these characteristics? What does mature adult faith look like in those who respond generously to God's call? The General Directory for Catechesis says that it is "a living, explicit, and fruitful confession of faith."24 By this, a human being makes a total and free self-commitment to God (DV, no. 7). A full and rich development of these three characteristics is what we aim for in adult catechesis and Christian living.
§ 50 § Faith is both a gift of God and an authentically human response25—a recognition of God's call in one's life and a free decision to follow this call by accepting and living the truth of the Gospel. As such, faith is living and active, sharing many of the qualities of living things: it grows and develops over time; it learns from experience; it adapts to changing conditions while maintaining its essential identity; it goes through seasons, some apparently dormant, others fruitful, though wherever faith is present the Holy Spirit is at work in the life of the disciple.
§ 51 § Like all living things, a living faith needs nourishment, which the mature adult disciple finds above all in union with Christ—"the way and the truth and the life" (Jn 14:6). "This life of intimate union with Christ in the Church is maintained by the spiritual helps common to all the faithful, chiefly by active participation in the liturgy."26 It is also maintained by
§ 64 § The Church's catechetical mission aims to help the faithful of all ages to grow in both human and Christian maturity,42 enriching the whole of life with the leaven of the Gospel. Consequently, appropriate goals and content will embrace all the faith dimensions of an adult life—for example, understanding and communicating the faith, skills needed for personal growth, the experience of family life, relationships, public service, and concern for the common good.
§ 65 § Our adult faith formation ministry must engage the particular needs and interests of the adults in each local community. To be faithful and effective it will offer, over time, a comprehensive and systematic presentation and exploration of the core elements of Catholic faith and practice—a complete initiation into a Catholic way of life. It will do so in a way that is accessible to adults and relates to their life experiences, helping them to form a Christian conscience and to live their lives in the world as faithful disciples of Jesus.
§ 66 § This integration of actual life experience, diverse adult learning needs, the study of Scripture, and the teaching of the Church's tradition will create a vibrant learning environment. It will also challenge the creativity of those who establish the direction, plan the content, and provide programs of adult faith formation. Meeting the challenge will be both demanding and rewarding. For guidance, we offer the following goals, principles, content, and approaches.
Three Major Goals for Adult Faith Formation
§ 67 § Adult Catechesis in the Christian Community, from the Holy See's International Council for Catechesis, stresses that all catechesis should strive to build adult Christian communities that are strong in faith, clearly proclaim the Gospel, celebrate vibrant and reverent liturgy, and give courageous witness in charity.43 This document then specifies the following three goals to guide and direct efforts in adult faith formation.
§ 68 § 1) Invite and Enable Ongoing Conversion to Jesus in Holiness of Life. In response to God's call to holiness, our faith and life as adult disciples are grounded in developing a personal relationship with Jesus, "the Holy One of God" (Jn 6:69, Mk 1:24). Accordingly, "‘at the heart of catechesis we find, in essence, a Person, the Person of Jesus of Nazareth. . . .' Catechesis aims at putting ‘people . . . in communion . . . with Jesus Christ.'"44
§ 69 § As its first goal, faith formation helps adults "to acquire an attitude of conversion to the Lord."45 This attitude fosters a baptismal spirituality for adults. It leads them to recognize and repent of sin in their hearts and lives, to seek reconciliation through the sacraments, and to embrace the invitation and challenge of an ever deepening faith in Jesus. It means putting on the mind of Christ, trusting in the Father's love, obeying God's will, seeking holiness of life, and growing in love for others. Deepening personal prayer is a significant means toward growth in holiness in daily life.
§ 70 § 2) Promote and Support Active Membership in the Christian Community. As adult believers, we learn and live our faith as active members of the Church. Our response to God's call to community "cannot remain abstract and unincarnated," but rather, "reveals itself concretely by a visible entry into a community of believers . . . a community which itself is a sign of transformation, a sign of newness of life: it is the Church, the visible sacrament of salvation."46 People find this community of faith in the parish and diocese, as well as in their families, small church communities, personal relationships, faith-based associations, and in the communion of saints of all times and places.
§ 71 § Accordingly, faith formation helps adults make "a conscious and firm decision to live the gift and choice of faith through membership in the Christian community," accepting "coresponsibility for the community's mission and internal life."47 Adults not only receive the ministries of the Christian community, they also contribute to its life and mission through the generous stewardship of their gifts.
§ 72 § 3) Call and Prepare Adults to Act as Disciples in Mission to the World. The Church and its adult faithful have a mission in and to the world: to share the message of Christ to renew and to transform the social and temporal order. This dual calling to evangelization and justice is integral to the identity of the lay faithful; all are called to it in baptism.
§ 73 § Accordingly, faith formation seeks to help each adult believer become "more willing and able to be a Christian disciple in the world."48 As salt of the earth and light for the world (cf. Mt 5:13-16), adult disciples give witness to God's love and caring will so that, in the power of the Spirit, they renew the face of the earth.
§ 74 § To assist the implementation of these goals, we offer here some basic principles of adult faith formation.
General Principles for Adult Faith Formation
§ 75 § (1) Plan adult faith formation to serve "the glory of God, the building of the Kingdom, and the good of the Church."49 Effective adult faith formation calls us to give God glory through our prayers of praise and the lives we lead. It equips us to be people of salt and light who build up God's kingdom of truth and life, holiness and grace, justice, love, and peace.50 It leads us to promote the good of the Church, serving its internal life and its dual mission of evangelization and justice.
§ 76 § (2) Orient adult Christian learning toward adult Christian living. Effective adult faith formation efforts join faith and life. They help people in practical ways to live their daily lives by the light and power of the Gospel.
§ 77 § (3) Strengthen the role and mission of the family in Church and society. Adults are eager for resources, guidance, and support that will help them form a community of faith within their families, grow more deeply in love with their spouses, raise children committed to Jesus and the Church, participate as Catholic families in society, and share together in the life and mission of their parish and the wider Church.51
Principles for Planning Adult Faith Formation
§ 78 § (4) Give adult faith formation the best of our pastoral resources and energies. Within the whole scope of catechetical ministry, adult catechesis "must be regarded as a preferential option"52 in planning and programming. When adult catechesis excels, it can then serve effectively as the point of reference and organizing principle for all catechesis.53
§ 79 § (5) Make adult faith formation essential and integral to the pastoral plan of the parish. Effective adult formation ministry connects with and strengthens all the many ministries and activities of the parish—formational, charitable, devotional, social, administrative. This integration of parish life and ministry helps to form the whole community on its lifelong journey of growth in Christian faith and mission.
§ 80 § (6) Design adult faith formation opportunities to serve the needs and interests of the entire faith community. "The Church therefore must maintain an active, listening presence in relation to the world—a kind of presence which both nurtures community and supports people in seeking acceptable solutions to personal and social problems."54 Start by listening to adults and let the stories of their lives and the hungers of their hearts inspire pastoral care and inform catechetical programming. Reach out to those whom society often neglects.55
Principles for Conducting Adult Faith Formation
§ 81 § (7) Use the catechumenate as an inspiring model for all catechesis.56 The baptismal catechumenate provides for an apprenticeship in Christian living and believing. It "seems the most appropriate model" for adult faith formation and, though it cannot be considered the exclusive model, should be encouraged everywhere. Whatever model is used, adult faith formation should always actively challenge participants to get involved with their own faith journey—passive listening is never enough; the goal is always conversion.
§ 82 § (8) Respect the different learning styles and needs of participants, treating adults like adults, respecting their experience, and actively involving them in the learning process. Effective adult faith formation "must begin by accepting adults where they are"58 in their faith, their life situations, their experiences, and their preferred learning styles. Our programs and ministries must be in touch with people's real circumstances and concerns. Just as Jesus did with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we must journey with people, listen to them, share our faith, help them to find in the Good News the answer to their hearts' deepest questions, and prepare them to live as Jesus' disciples.
§ 83 § (9) Engage adults actively in the actual life and ministry of the Christian community. "Adults do not grow in faith primarily by learning concepts, but by sharing the life of the Christian community."59 Not that concepts are irrelevant; they are foundational. But for most people the truths of faith really come alive and bear fruit when tested and put into practice—in soup kitchens, neighborhoods, small groups, workplaces, community organizations, and family homes. Adult catechesis practitioners need to learn to tap the learning potential of these diverse settings of Christian ministry and daily life.
Principles for Inculturating Adult Faith Formation
§ 84 § (10) "Bring the power of the Gospel into the very heart of culture and cultures."60 Sometimes this means discerning with participants which aspects of their culture are compatible with the Gospel and then building adult faith formation efforts on those aspects, incorporating the culture's symbols, traditions, and language. At other times it means discerning cultural elements incompatible with the Gospel and working together to purify and transform them. Both are important; neither should be neglected.
§ 85 § (11) Let the gifts of culture enrich the life of the Church. Inculturation is a process of mutual enrichment between the Gospel and culture.61 While the power of the Gospel transforms and renews each culture that embraces it, the living tradition of each culture gives rise to "original expressions of Christian life, celebration, and thought"62 that become gifts for the whole Church. Find ways to emphasize the gifts of ethnic and cultural diversity. We all want and deserve to be respected for who we are, with our personal qualities and cultural characteristics recognized as part of God's creative presence in the world.
§ 86 § (12) Involve the whole people of God in inculturating the faith. "Inculturation must involve the whole people of God, and not just a few experts, since the people reflect the authentic ‘sensus fidei' which must never be lost sight of." Work directly with people of each racial or ethnic group to find ways to affirm or renew the values expressed in their family traditions, social customs, and popular devotions. Special attention must be paid to those groups that are most easily forgotten: particularly those who are elderly, those who are living with handicapping conditions, those who are alienated from society.
§ 87 § (13) Let adult faith formation programs be centers of service and inculturation. Be conscious of those whose racial, linguistic, or ethnic identity may cause them to feel alienated from the local culture or faith community, to experience overt or subtle discrimination, or to be
economically disadvantaged. Make every effort to reach out and welcome them, tactfully offering any needed assistance, and incorporating them in the life and activities of the Church community as full and valued members.
§ 88 § Scripture and tradition form the core content of all adult catechesis, for the Church has always considered them the "supreme rule of faith." Through them we receive "the very word of God," and in them resounds "the voice of the Holy Spirit."64 Sacred Scripture provides the starting point for reflecting on the faith, while the Catechism of the Catholic Church serves as the "reference for the authentic presentation of the content of the faith."65 Use of Scripture and the Catechism—including the sources from which it draws, those to which it refers, and other catechetical resources based on and consonant with it—will help adults grasp the content of the faith and its practical application in Christian living.
§ 89 § The Catholic faith is like a symphony in which the unity of faith finds expression in richly diverse formulations and manifestations.66 As the General Directory for Catechesis states: "The maturation of the Christian life requires that it be cultivated in all its dimensions: knowledge of the faith, liturgical life, moral formation, prayer, belonging to community, missionary spirit. When catechesis omits one of these elements, the Christian faith does not attain full development."67
§ 90 § The ongoing development of a living, explicit, and fruitful Christian faith in adulthood requires growth in all six dimensions. Each of them is a fundamental aspect of Christian life and a foundational content area for adult faith formation. The exploration of the six dimensions that follow are presented as content summaries to indicate what adult faith formation programs and opportunities seek to accomplish.
§ 91 § 1) Knowledge of the Faith
(See the Catechism, nos. 26-1065; General Directory for Catechesis, nos. 84-85, 87.)
§ 113 § Making adult faith formation a vibrant and fruitful reality in parish life will require the support of a solid infrastructure of ministry in local faith communities. In Part IV we identify key elements of this organizational support. We begin with reflections on the parish; it is where much adult faith formation takes place, and it is the chief ministerial agent of such formation within and beyond the parish. We then focus on the people needed for this ministry, for "the quality of any form of pastoral activity is placed at risk if it does not rely on truly competent and trained personnel."85
The Pivotal Importance of the Parish
§ 114 § For most Catholics, the parish is their primary experience of the Church. It is where they gather for weekly worship, celebrate their most joyous occasions, and mourn their deepest losses. There they are called to repentance and renewal, finding and celebrating God's forgiveness and reconciliation. Embracing the dying and rising of Jesus in their lives, they are challenged to holiness and strengthened for self-giving love and Christian service.
§ 115 § At the same time, not everyone who seeks to live a Catholic life does so through regular parish membership. We are challenged to find effective ways to walk the journey of life with all Catholics—including those without a strong parish connection—and to enrich that shared journey with the gifts of the faith community. Even as we walk with these non-parish Catholics, we seek ways to bring them back again to active parish life.
§ 116 § The ministerial personnel and infrastructure to meet this challenge will be found chiefly in the parish and diocesan community, as described below. And yet this responsibility belongs fundamentally to the whole parish, which is called to be "a visible place of faith-witness" and "the living and permanent environment for growth in the faith."86
§ 117 § The parish, then, provides the place, persons, and means to summon and sustain adults in lifelong conversion of heart, mind, and life. It is, "without doubt, the most important locus in which the Christian community is formed and expressed."87
§ 118 § 1) The Parish Is the Curriculum
While this pastoral plan is concerned primarily with intentional adult faith formation programs, the success of such efforts rests very much on the quality and total fabric of parish life. This includes, for example, "the quality of the liturgies, the extent of shared decision making, the priorities in the parish budget, the degree of commitment to social justice, the quality of the other catechetical programs."88
§ 119 § Parishioners' personal involvement in ministry is also formative. They learn as they prepare for ministry and as they engage in it; they learn from those with whom they serve and from those whom they serve; and by their witness, they show others the life-giving power of faith.
§ 120 § The homily holds powerful potential for fostering the faith of adults.89 It "takes up again the journey of faith put forward by catechesis, and brings it to its natural fulfillment. At the same time, it encourages the Lord's disciples to begin anew each day their spiritual journey in truth, adoration and thanksgiving."90
§ 121 § When these various elements of parish life are weak or lacking, formal programs for adults typically do not flourish; when they are vibrant and strong, they create an overall climate of active participation and living faith that can only benefit the parish's intentional formation efforts with adults. Thus, while the parish may have an adult faith formation program, it is no less true that the parish is an adult faith formation program.
§ 122 § 2) Shaping Parish Culture
To foster this living climate of faith, pastors and those with whom they collaborate in pastoral leadership will want to assess and intentionally shape the culture and procedures of the parish, using questions such as: How are people encouraged to examine their basic assumptions about life and its ultimate meaning? How do they acquire the perspective and skills for an intelligent appropriation of Catholic Christian tradition and an honest, informed assessment of contemporary culture? How is the Christian message lived, communicated, and explored? How do people experience Christian community in family, parish, small groups, and ecumenical encounters? How do they actively participate in liturgical, small group, family, and personal prayer? How are they involved in assessing local needs and discerning pastoral priorities? How is Christian stewardship in parish and society called forth and welcomed? How do they personally serve the "least ones" (Mt 25:45)? How are they involved in shaping public policy and making society more just? In short, how is learning in faith already happening through the ordinary experience of parish life and mission?
§ 123 § A 1990 study of Protestant congregations identified two factors as having the strongest positive influence on the faith maturity and loyalty of adults: lifelong involvement in Christian education (during childhood, adolescence, and adulthood) and lifelong involvement in the life of the Church.91 This data is affirmed in the study conducted by James Davidson et al. that stresses the importance of personal attributes, upbringing, life course experiences, and commitment in relationship to one's beliefs and practices.92 Whatever we can do in Catholic parishes and dioceses to encourage lifelong involvement in church life and faith formation will bear fruit in strengthened Christian community and mission.
Key Parish Roles of Leadership and Service for Adult Faith Formation
§ 124 § To make adult faith formation ministry most effective, certain roles of leadership and corresponding pastoral structures are critical. These roles constitute a ministerial infrastructure that we believe is necessary to sustain a healthy parish practice of adult faith formation.
§ 125 § The following objectives highlight four key roles: (1) the pastor and other pastoral leaders; (2) the adult faith formation leader who becomes the lead agent in promoting and supporting this ministry in the parish; (3) the adult faith formation team who collaborate with the leader in planning and providing learning opportunities; and (4) catechists of adults.
§ 126 § While the whole parish is responsible for catechetical ministry, these four leadership roles are critical lead agents. In this section we describe these roles, introduce objectives to be accomplished, and propose indicators to help in assessing attainment of the objectives. Objectives and indicators are based upon successful pastoral practice. They are meant as guides for enhancing and expanding effective adult faith formation, and they can be adapted to local needs and circumstances.
The Pastor and Other Pastoral Leaders
§ 127 § Objective One:
The pastor and other pastoral leaders will demonstrate a clear commitment to the vision and practice of lifelong growth in Christian faith.
The pastor bears the pastoral and spiritual responsibility, as reflected in the code of canon law, for catechesis in the parish and for ensuring an authentic presentation of the faith to adults.93 He personally models mature adult faith and is its principal advocate in the parish. He sees to it that adults of all ages have opportunities to learn and grow in faith throughout their lives. To equip them for these tasks, seminarians, priests, and deacons are to study catechetical methodology, especially the principles and practices of adult faith formation.94 "Experience bears out that the quality of catechesis in a community depends very largely on the presence and activity of the priest."95
§ 128 § In parishes with additional pastoral staff, the pastor ensures that all staff members promote adult faith formation as a parish priority. In communities without a resident pastor, the pastoral administrator ensures that adult faith formation opportunities are provided.
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