By Sheri Kemp, Special to The Catholic Virginian

As families prepare households to return to school, now is the time to register for faith formation programs at your parish. While teachers in schools are busy setting up classrooms, catechists in parishes are attending workshops and gatherings to prepare themselves to share the richness of the Catholic faith with Catholic adults and children.

Faith formation is for everyone

Parishes in the Diocese of Richmond provide systematic catechetical formation opportunities for children through 12th Grade. Schedules and offerings vary by parish. Check out your parish bulletin or website for how to register.

If your children attend Catholic School, they are not expected to also attend parish formation classes, but they are very welcomed. Learning about and celebrating their faith in the community of other parishioners their age can build long term relationships that encourage them into the future.

Formation for preparation/reception of First Penance, First Holy Communion, Confirmation and RCIA are separate from regular religious education or youth group sessions and are organized through your parish. Registration usually takes place in the late summer. Contact your parish for specific information.

Parents and other adults are encouraged to sign up for adult faith formation. Find out what your parish offers by checking with your catechetical leader or pastor. Many programs of study require just a few weeks’ commitment, and others are available to be viewed online at home on the couch.

Parents – the primary faith educators – may choose to teach children at home

The Catholic Church recognizes that parents are the primary catechists of their children. Parents share their faith and values, and shape those of their children, through their everyday life. Many families desire to take on the role of leading their children’s systematic formation. Parents who want to do this are encouraged to communicate this desire to your parish faith coordinator and/or pastor so that they are aware of your efforts and can support you with access to training, resources and prayer opportunities.

Religious Education classes important every year, not just in sacrament years

“Faith is a gift destined to grow in the hearts of believers. Adhering to Jesus Christ, in fact, sets in motion a process of continuing conversion, which lasts for the whole of life. He who comes to faith is like a new born child, who, little by little, will grow and change into an adult … and to maturity in the fullness of Christ.” General Directory for Catechesis, 56

The Church offers formation opportunities for people of all ages because all the faithful are on a journey of ongoing conversion, and each is strengthened on that journey through regular participation in the parish community – liturgy, prayer, outreach, celebration, and learning. Just as an athlete doesn’t train for a marathon, run it, and then expect to stay in the same shape without continuing to train, so must Catholics continually “train” themselves in the faith.