Office of Adult Education and Formation

This office is responsible for a realm of education and formation for adults: Marriage scheduling and preparation; Infant Baptism scheduling and preparation; Adult Baptism and Confirmation; RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults); as well as Spiritual Direction and Small Group opportunities. This also lists the contact for annulments.

 

Catholic Identity Part 1

Catholic identity part 1 of 2

As Catholic Christians, the fresh waters of faith define our very selves

By Thomas Groome

Produced in partnership between Boston College and Today’s Parish

Jesus promised the Samaritan woman at the well that he would give "living waters" that constantly spring up "unto eternal life." We must ever return to these deep waters to invigorate our identity in our Catholic faith. Given the tensions and transitions, the scandals and controversies of our time, perhaps our present thirst is all the greater. Puddles from the recent rain will not sustain us, and certainly not stagnant waters from dead ponds. Only fresh waters from the depth springs of Catholicism can invigorate our identity as truly Catholic persons and communities of faith.

For human beings, identity refers to the bedrock of who we are and how we live our lives. As Catholic Christians, our faith functions as that foundation of personhood, defining our very identity. Our Catholic faith is to permeate everything about us; it shapes our self-understanding and outlook on the world, with its values and convictions reaching into every nook and cranny of life, and like a leaven in dough, raising up fully alive people who are life-giving for others as well.

Clearly then, with this faith-grounded identity, being and becoming Catholic is a lifelong journey. We recognize that our lives are marked by sins and graces; our call to holiness is never complete until we rest in God.

The same is true for the Catholic Church. We have our great moments of grace but often fall short of being an effective symbol-the sacrament-of God's reign in the world. As Pope John Paul II frequently reminded, we must repent our communal failures and ever renew our efforts to be the church that we should be.

Of course, it is imperative that we claim Catholic identity without any trace of sectarianism—as if "we" are the only people whom God loves. The universality of God's love—a dogma of our faith-requires that we proceed with great ecumenical sensitivity. Accepting Jesus' teaching, "in my Father's house, there are many dwelling places" (John 14:2), we must grow in belonging to our Catholic home. For only as our Catholic faith permeates our own lives and communities can we be agents of the "new evangelization," bearing joyful witness to our faith and to the reign of God in the marketplace of life.

Faith Beneath the Beliefs
Our Catholic faith and the beliefs that express it work hand in hand-like matter and form. Yet, it is possible to distinguish between the faith convictions that define who we are and our verbal expressions of that faith. I was recently in company with two people, one of whom believes in the Genesis story of creation-in six days-as literally true, whereas the other believes in evolution over billions of years; yet both had a deep faith in God as the loving Creator of all. Though they had different beliefs, they shared a common faith. Beneath our beliefs, then, the deep convictions of Catholic faith shape our identity, precisely as they become incarnate in us as persons and communities. So, as you review each faith conviction proposed below, be asking, "What does this mean for my daily life and ministry?"

Faith in God as loving Creator of all that is, ultimate Mystery and yet as close as our heartbeat. Our God intervenes in human history and works in covenant with humankind to bring about God's reign of compassion and mercy, of justice and peace, of holiness and fullness of life for all. Our one and only God is yet a Loving Community of three divine Persons. In sum, "God is love" (1 John 4:16) and calls us to so live.

Faith in Jesus Christ as God come among us as one of ourselves, fully human and fully divine. Jesus modeled "the way, the truth, and the life" (Jn 14:6)-how to live into fullness of life as people of God. By his dying and rising, Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah, the Savior of all humankind who empowers us to live "the way" of disciples.

Faith in the Holy Spirit as God's ever-present and effective love-grace-that "works" constantly in our hearts and lives. Through the ebb and flow of every day, the Spirit calls and prompts toward holiness, inspiring and sustaining us to live in "right relationship" with God, others, and creation.

Faith in people as made in God's own image and likeness (Gn 1:27) and alive by the very lifebreath of God (Gn 2:7). Our God-given dignity, worth, and equality as persons are affirmed beyond all doubt by the Incarnation (through which God took on our human estate). Though we are capable of sin, we are essentially good and graced, fitted toward living as partners for God's reign.

Faith in life as a gracious gift from God for us to embrace and celebrate, to cherish and defend, from womb to tomb. Or life is sacramental in that we can encounter God's presence and grace through the everyday. Convinced of the sacramentality of all of creation, we believe that through seven "ordinary" signs (water, bread and wine, etc.) and by God's saving work in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit assures that they cause the grace which they symbolize. The climatic sacrament is Eucharist that mediates the real presence of Jesus Christ, "body and blood" presence.

Catholic Faith—Catholic Identity
Of course there are other dimensions that characterize our Catholic tradition, and these will be examined in the second part of this essay, but these five serve as the bedrock from which the living water of faith can flow. They remind us that our identity is rooted in God's gracious love expressed clearly in Jesus Christ and continually present in our lives through the Holy Spirit.

***

The Constitution on the
Church from Vatican II
gives us rich images with
which we understand
who we are as church.
The church is, for example,
called a sheepfold or even “the flock”
with Christ as shepherd.
It is called a field, farmed
well and tilled carefully,
a choice vineyard tended by Christ
who is the true vine.
It is called the building of God,
the household of God,
with Christ as the cornerstone.
It is called the temple built of living stones
which are us – the People of God.
It is called our mother.
It is called the “new Jerusalem.”

These many images each point
to a different dimension
of the church which is, in truth,
a great mystery,
a sacrament of Christ to the world.

- from The Growing Faith Project booklet #17: “With Whom Do You Gather?” based on articles 753-757 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church www.growingfaithproject.com

 

Thomas Groome

Thomas Groome is professor of theology and religious education at Boston College. He is a Roman Catholic layman and the author of a number of books on religious education. Dr. Groome has lectured widely throughout the United States and abroad.

Catholic Identity Part 2

Catholic identity part 2 of 2

Living as Disciples

By Thomas Groome

Produced in partnership between Boston College and Today’s Parish

This is the second of a two-part essay that examines dimensions and implications of our Catholic identity for lived Christian faith. In Part 1, Professor Thomas Groome considered the deep convictions of our Catholic faith that serve as the foundation for our shared identity. Faith in God, in Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit, in people, and in life: these give shape to our Catholic identity as they come to expression in us as persons and communities. In this second essay Groome examines other key elements of our Catholic faith that sustain our lives as disciples, as apprentices to the ways of Jesus.

At the Last Supper as recounted in the Gospel of John, Jesus conveyed to those gathered the essences of discipleship: to live lives that are reflective of God's love. Having promised the gift of the Spirit as comforter and guide, Jesus gave the disciples a "new commandment”—that they love as he had loved, and he loved as God loves. Then he added, "This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (Jn 13:31-36). Forever after, then, trying to love as our God and Jesus loves, this was to be the identifying sign of discipleship. The struggle to live faithfully to this mandate must always be the identifying story and vision of our lives as Catholic Christians. Within this "greatest commandment;' we can readily recognize some particular convictions and mandates that combine to lend us our Catholic identity in faith.

Faith in community and church. God made us relational beings; we are "made for each other." Our faith teaches that our highest human calling—our fullest identity as human beings—is to live in loving and caring relationships with God, ourselves, each other, and the world. So, we must work together in human communities for the common good of all; a central aspect of Catholic ethics is this emphasis on the common good and everyone's responsibility to care, not just for ourselves but for each other. Then, as a community of Jesus' disciples, the Holy Spirit bonds Christians together like the "Body of Christ" to carry on God's saving mission in Jesus. Within our Catholic community, we inherit the faith handed down to us through both Scripture and tradition. These are the sources of God's revelation to our lives now—the faith of our people over time—guided by the teaching magisterium of the church.

Faith is whole, requiring us to invest "all our mind, heart, and strength" (Mk 12:33) in living as disciples of Jesus. Our Catholic faith has the capacity to shape our convictions, relationships, and activities, what we believe, our prayer and worship, the ethics and values by which we live. Lived in this life, the great and sure promise is that such faith brings us home to God; as the old Catechism taught well, we are to "know, love, and serve" God in this life to be "happy forever in the next.”

Faith demands us to work for justice and peace, to practice mercy and compassion at every level of existence-personal, communal, and social-political. Catholic faith places great social responsibilities upon its adherents. We cannot fulfill the greatest commandment simply by personal one-on-one charity to the needy and victimized; we must also try to change the social structures that cause people to be poor and oppressed in the first place. It is not enough simply to pray "thy kingdom come"; we must ever try to do God's will of fullness of life for all "on earth as it is in heaven."

Faith calls to holiness after the way of Jesus, to live as his disciples-apprentices-trying to love as he loved. Our faith teaches us the phenomenal truth that our God first loves us. Then, through baptism, God calls all Christians to grow ever more deeply into awareness of and response to God's unconditional love. Echoing the biblical sense of both holiness and justice, we are to grow in "right and loving relationship" with God, ourselves, others, and all creation.

Faith honors Mary and the saints. Mary has pride of place among the communion of saints because of her crucial role in the work of our salvation. As fully human as well as fully divine, Jesus had to be raised and taught like every other child. Imagine the influence that Mary had on his outlook on life, on his values, on his commitments. Then, because he was truly the Son of God, conceived by the Holy Spirit, and yet born from her womb, we honor Mary with the august title "mother of God.” Likewise, as Jesus on the cross gave Mary to the disciple John as a mother, so we believe that she is the "mother in faith" of all beloved disciples-ourselves. We can ask Mary to pray with us and for us to her divine Son, and likewise the saints who are in God's eternal presence.

Much as we can pray for the living or ask those living to pray for us, so we can ask the saints to intercede for us or we can intercede for the departed who may be still making their way home to God. In this Christian community, the bond of baptism is never broken, not even by death.

Faith that is "catholic.” From the Greek, katha halos meaning "to include everyone" our community should be truly catholic first in that we have a sense of being deeply bonded-like the parts of a body-with the world-wide Catholic community. Then, we should be catholic in that we welcome and fully include all comers in our local parish community. If a Catholic parish is truly catholic, then it communicates clearly that "all are welcome.” Catholicity also requires us to include everyone in our care and concern, without borders, and, according to St. Augustine, to be open to the truth wherever it can be found.

Reflection and conversation
Name some of the ways that you recognize your daily efforts to live the “greatest commandment.”

What are some of your greatest challenges to loving as Jesus loved?

Jesus would have known well from his Jewish faith the commandment to love God and neighbor as oneself. So, why do you think he called it “a new commandment”?

For your own faith
Reread these deep convictions of our Catholic faith. (You may also want to go back over the ones listed in Part 1 of this series.)

What do you recognize as a deep calling to your own faith? For your own growth in holiness?

For your ministry
Imagine some ways to help deepen the Catholic identity of your own ministry; to make it more clearly “Catholic” in the richest sense of the term.

How can you share such Catholic faith more effectively through your ministry?

The body of Christ
For us Catholic Christians, being part of the church is being part of the Body of Christ with Christ as head
and ourselves as members. We see ourselves as a sign to the world,  a sacrament to the world that shows forth Christ, that is, Love Revealed. We are, in a word, the family of Christ, the household of Love. The church has a certain structure to help it achieve its mission. But the church is born entirely from Christ, so even its structure
is one of service. And this structure, along with all the members of the church, and all aspects of church life       are given the Spirit of Love and flow from that Spirit as well. That is the real meaning of what happened on Pentecost itself. The Spirit of Divine Love, flowing out into the community, awakened within certain members  the gifts needed for ministry. These gifts continue to flow today.

From The Growing Faith Project booklet 17· "With Whom do You Gather?" based on articles 753-757 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. www.growingfaithproject.com

 

Thomas Groome

Thomas Groome is professor of theology and religious education at Boston College. He is a Roman Catholic layman and the author of a number of books on religious education. Dr. Groome has lectured widely throughout the United States and abroad.

Rite of Christian Initiation -RCIA

Do you want to become Catholic, or know of anyone who wants to know more about our Catholic faith?  We have a faith journey called RCIA – the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. Through this process, interested adults are gradually introduced to the Roman  Catholic faith and way of life.

If you have been a Catholic all your life and would like to expand your basic knowledge, we offer many forms of Adult Formation ranging from Bible Study groups to Small Groups of Faith Sharing; from diocesan opportunities for Continuing Ed to seeking the Sacrament of Confirmation for Adults in our parish.

 

Contact Information

Position Pastoral Associate
Name Rosie Rundell
Email formation@sevendolors.com
Phone W:785-565-5000 (ext.115)