Formation is the third of four pillars of parish stewardship as a way of life, along with hospitality, prayer and service. But what does this word “formation” mean in our contextual understanding of stewardship?
Formation means to study the teachings of Christ and His Church, and then to develop ways to put those teachings into practice. Faith formation is at the heart of many activities in any parish. A parish grade school exists solely for the purpose of providing for the formation of children in the ways of Christ and His Church. A parish school should not be viewed as a “private school,” but rather a Catholic school, so that we, as a parish, are able to assist the parents of the parish in carrying out their responsibility to hand on their Faith to their children.
Formation takes place in parish religious education programs, which is the way that we as a parish help the parents of children who do not attend Catholic school to hand on their Faith to their children. Formation can also take place in youth ministry programs, such as LifeTeen. Formation takes place in pre-sacramental preparation sessions for the Sacraments of Reconciliation, First Communion and Confirmation. What is taking place is not just the learning of Church doctrines regarding faith and morals, but also how to live as a disciple of Jesus; how to live His teachings in our everyday lives.
What about the adults of the parish? How do they practice formation? The Church teaches us that faith formation begins with adults. This means that the adults of the parish ought to be involved in ongoing faith formation. This takes place in scripture study groups, adult religious education, pre-sacramental preparation for marriage and the baptism of children, the RCIA process, as well as at parish Pastoral Council meetings, Stewardship Committee meetings, Legion of Mary meetings, St. Vincent de Paul meetings, and in other ways, too.
The New Year presents a golden opportunity for all of the adults of a parish to accept the invitation to faith formation, and to take part in one of the many programs most parishes have to offer.
Formation is not just an individual task. Rather, it is a communal responsibility that, when applied, will further help your parish grow as a stewardship parish. Each one of us has an inherent need to give; to move from “selfishness to selflessness,” as the Diocese of Wichita’s document The Pillars of Parish Stewardship aptly states. Formation is a process of spiritual growth, and it leads to a deeper understanding of loving others as God loves us.
Keep an eye on your weekly parish bulletin for faith formation opportunities at your parish. Before long, your commitment to formation will lead you to naturally live the Catholic Faith and understand stewardship in ways that you never imagined before.