The above referenced scripture passage provides the foundation upon which the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops began their pastoral plan to renew commitment to adult faith formation. This pastoral plan, aptly named "Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us" was approved in November 1999.
The pastoral plan is a guideline for parish leaders and catechists to use, not a map with detailed programs to implement, or avoid. It sets the tone and principles in adult formation, to which every parish is called to carry out.
Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us is a joyful message to the Church. "We are filled with great joy and expectation as the third millennium of Christian history dawns. We are eager to witness and share the word of life about the reign of God faithfully, so that each new generation can hear this word in its own accents and discover Christ as its Savior." #1
One thing comes out very clearly in the second paragraph of this document, and that is "every disciple of the Lord shares in this mission. To do their part, adult Catholics must be mature in faith and well equipped to share the Gospel, promoting it in every family circle, in every church gathering, in every place of work, and in every public forum. They must be women and men of prayer whose faith is alive and vital, grounded in a deep commitment to the person and message of Jesus." #2
To this end, the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart endeavors to provide meaningful, relative adult faith formation opportunities to its parishioners. It is a task that we take very seriously.
To provide the level of formation for adult learners, we must have knowledgable, committed, and competent people to facilitate and/or instruct in the various adult education events. We must also be able to read the needs and desires of the parish, and respond to those as well as we can with the resources we have. Designing, incorporating, and implementing new opportunities is done with attention to our resources, needs, and spirituality of our parish. Every parish has its own unique spirituality.
Because we live our faith in the context of everyday realities of marriage, parenting, work, economy, and communities, it is important that we as Catholics understand what we are being called to in these different circumstances of life. How does being Catholic impact our marriage, how we raise our families, make spending decisions, socialize, and interact in our communities? Do our decisions reflect undertanding and application of our Catholic faith? At the Co-Cathedral, we aim to provide education and information on these types of questions, in a format that is informative and interactive.
Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, authored by the Church's bishops in 1965 addresses the critical need for helping Catholics meet the demands of life within the context of their faith. "The joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted, are the joys and hopes of the followers of Christ as well. God is love (1Jn 4:8). God assures those who trust in his charity that the way of love is open to all and that the effort to establish a universional communion will not be in vain. This love is not something reserved for important matters, but must be exercised above all in the ordinary circumstances of daily life." GS 1, 38
Every baptized Catholic is called and expected to continue growing in their faith through ongoing religious formation. Priests, religious, professors, theologians, and adults in all walks of life are included in this call. If we reflect on the sacraments of initiation, we understand that "initiation" is a beginning of something, not the end. We can compare this to learning a subject in grade school, such as reading or math; that is just a beginning of the road. In grade school, we learn basic math and reading skills with the intention to continue learning more advanced and complex realities in middle school, and high school (and beyond, for many). If we stayed on the grade school level of these fundamental skills, we would be severely thwarted academically, intellectually, socially, and even emotionally. We would be trying to function as an adult with only a grade school level of knowledge.
The same can be said of our knowledge of the faith; it has to grow and mature as we grow and mature. What we learned in 2nd grade has to develop through middle school, high school, young adulthood, and into the senior years. It's a life-long process. Yet many adults today, well educated in other dimensions of life, are operating on a much younger level of understanding in their faith. The good news is that it is never too late! Maybe it's time to visit the parish library, take a Bible Study or faith-enrichment class, and hone those skills at learning and applying more advanced knowledge of the faith. We hope to see you at our Adult Education events, growing and maturing in your Catholic faith!
How will you respond to the invitation to grow in your understanding of God, through the teachings of the Catholic Church?