‘Catholicism’ study guides spark adult faith formation
When Sister Brenda Query opens a new adult faith formation program at St. Gregory the Great Parish in Virginia Beach, she begins with a question.
“How many of you have ever been on a pilgrimage?” Sister Brenda, director of adult faith formation, asks participants.
“That’s what we’re going to do for the next five months with Father Barron. And we’re going all over the world with Father Barron.”
The priest she cites is Father Robert E. Barron, a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago who is founder and director of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries.
Participants in the Catholicism Adult Formation Program travel on the pilgrimage via a DVD/video and then have shared discussion with others who are on the pilgrimage.
The diocesan Office of Catholic Education/Christian Formation is promoting Father Barron’s series on Catholicism and offering a discount on materials to enable more parishes to offer it. The cost for individual participants in the 10-week series is now $15 a person because of a major gift from the 2011 Diocesan Appeal.
“It has taken off like wildfire,” Emily Filippi, director for Christian Formation, said of the series. The diocese sold 500 copies of the study guides within 24 hours and has now ordered an additional 500 which can be purchased at a 50 percent discount.
The program can be used by a variety of audiences, Mrs. Filippi said, pointing out that it would be ideal for a parish RCIA group, returning Catholics who have been away from the Church or another adult formation program.
“People get to watch it, hear it, see the images and then you reflect on it with other people on what it means to you and how it affects your life,” she explained, adding that the DVDs have “wonderful cinematography” of various places around the world and the people who live there.
“You’re always hearing music and seeing images while Father Barron is speaking,” she added.
“The beauty of it is you just need a facilitator,” Mrs. Filippi asserted. “You don’t have to have a sophisticated adult faith formation program in your parish already formed. This is a good way to start.”
A recent training program for facilitators was held in February at St. Bede’s in Williamsburg.
Va. Beach man lauds DVD series
My wife Margie and I are just completing Father Robert Barron’s CATHOLICISM PROJECT at St. Gregory the Great Parish in Virginia Beach.
Father Barron’s Series provided us with a tremendously realistic renewal of the basic teachings of our Catholic faith, showing the timeless and universal richness and beauty of our Church and its effect on the world.
Father Barron’s commentary throughout is extremely powerful, inspiring, and edifying, yet filled with easy to understand examples of why and how we should live our faith. His answers to Questions at the end of the course are must-hear mini-homilies that sum up what we must know and do every day to defend and evangelize what we believe as members of The Body of Christ.
As life-long devout Catholics, and parents of four children, 11 grandchildren, and one great grandson, our pride in our Catholic Church was greatly reinforced and solidified by participation in such an informative Program. Father Barron has the gift of presenting the tenets of our faith by showcasing the beautiful locations throughout the world where that faith has developed and is enriched, and inspires us to want to visit them.
In addition, he has shown us that we can always learn more about our Catholic faith. We would highly recommend Father Barron’s Word on Fire Series to everyone that wishes to know more about the Catholic faith and be inspired by it to lead a more holy life.
Calling it “a turn key product,” Bernadette Harris, Associate Director for Christian Formation, said it can be used immediately once it is in the hands of the parish.
“People who watch it have said ‘I feel proud to be a Catholic,’” she said.
There are currently four separate groups of the Catholicism Program at St. Gregory’s. The one on Wednesday morning is by far the largest group with about 40 participants. The group views the DVD/video together and then breaks up into smaller groups for discussion.
“What we did here was take each lesson and divide it into two parts,” Sister Brenda explained. “It would have taken a lot of preparation time that not everyone could have managed with their busy schedules.”
Still the young adult group of St. Gregory’s completed the 10-lesson program in 10 weeks.
Participants are given a binder with 10 lessons, each in a separate 24-page magazine format. There are normally 15 pages of text in each lesson with five or six questions for understanding and then five or six questions for application. Participants are expected to prepare for each session by reading the text and answering the questions in the space allotted on each page.
“I see it as extremely successful,” Sister Brenda said, adding that some participants have told her ‘I’m sorry it has come to an end’ when the series is completed.
“The series has created a desire in me to learn more about ny faith,” said Melissa Warren, a participant from St. Gregory’s.
Returning to her initial question at the first session about who had been on a pilgrimage, Sister Brenda says she tells the group of the different places they will travel to in the coming weeks.
“Father Barron is going to take us to Auschwitz in Germany when he talks about St. Edith Stein.
“He’s going to take us to Lisieux when he talks about St. Therese, the Little Flower.
“He’s going to take us to the Trappist monastery in Kentucky when he talks about Thomas Merton.”
Although the Diocese of Richmond is not mentioned by name in one of the videos, Father Barron says “along the river in Virginia” when he talks about the life of St. Katharine Drexel. After she entered religious life, the daughter of a wealthy Philadelphia family helped establish a Catholic school (now closed) for black children during the days of segregation.
“St. Gregory’s, as I am sure the other parishes are, is most grateful for the diocesan grant to help finance this fine program,” Sister Brenda said.
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