One of the most creative diocesan partners we are blessed to work with is Mrs. Susan Northway, Director of Religious Education of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. She understands our mission as well as we do and is endlessly creative about how we can serve the Diocese of Salt Lake City. A year ago, the Pastor of St. George Parish, Fr. Martin Picos and the parish DRE, Mrs. Jill Lutrell approached her for help with a formation program for the catechists of the southwest region of the diocese where the parish is the anchor for several surrounding parishes. These parishes are about a four-hour drive from the diocesan pastoral center. Susan immediately imagined a synergy between the parish, her office, and the Congar Institute. Her idea was not only to respond to the needs of the region but also to build the capacity of the church in that region for adult faith formation. We’ve described this project in earlier issues and now we have a year’s experience to report on.
With these creative partners, the Congar Institute has been able to provide through 5 seasonal retreats directed by various Resource Persons spiritual formation not only for catechists in the program but for any adult parishioners who wanted to attend. These events proved very popular among the people and very effective for the catechists, they commented: “I thoroughly enjoyed the presentation. Very insightful.”, “Thank you for making me understands better.” “Wonderful! I gained inner insight.”
We also worked with Fr. Picos, Mrs. Lutrell and Mrs. Northway to review the initial ideas for the curriculum of the catechist formation events and shape it so that it not only reflected the theme of the Year of Faith, as they hoped, but at the same time provided the catechists with formation in the faith that helped fulfilled the requirements for catechist certification. We worked with Mrs. Northway and the LEM graduate students to create engaging and effective adult catechetical sessions.
Through all of this, we mentored Mrs. Lutrell in adult faith formation, using her experience of the catechist formation sessions (both in intellectual as well as spiritual formation) as the launching pad for our exploration of themes, issues, and practical matters related to adult faith formation. Together, we worked through the excellent, recently published book, A Concise Guide to Adult Faith Formation.
We plan to move forward in the second year with this approach, further assisting in curriculum development, spiritual formation, ministry supervision, and mentoring in adult faith formation. By the end of the process, together we will have built the capacity of the church in southwest Utah not only to promote better faith formation at all levels, but to continue to provide excellent faith formation to the adults of the region.