By KATHY SCHMUGGE
COLUMBIA — “At all times and in every age, the church faces unique opportunities and challenges as it proclaims the Good News of God’s reign,” says the November 1999 statement, “Our Hearts were Burning Within Us — A Pastoral Plan for Adult Faith Formation in the United States.” That document was discussed at a Dec. 15 in-service sponsored by the diocesan Office of Evangelization, Initiation and Catechesis.
The office director, Paul Schroeder, invited Charity Sister Maureen Shaughnessy, assistant secretary for Catechesis and Leadership Formation in the Department of Education at the National Conference of Catholic Bishop/United States Catholic Conference, who also assisted with the pastoral plan, to explain its implications for adult education.
Sister Shaughnessy’s primary goal was to motivate catechetical leaders to continue their efforts in adult faith formation. “Adults are called to live out their baptismal promises, which does not allow them to remain silent in the world,” she said, adding that children need adults, ideally their parents, as models of Christian living, making their faith education central to the education of the children.
In order to be models of faith, “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,” states the document.
Like any good plan, it gives some direction on how to accomplish the goal of adult faith formation; however, Sister Shaughnessy warns that the plan does not provide a “one size fits all” model. She said that each parish should adapt ideas and create a program to fit their unique needs.
“Sacred Scripture provides the starting point for reflecting on the faith, while the Catechism of the Catholic Church serves as the ‘reference for the authentic presentation of the content of the faith.’ Use of Scripture and the Catechism — including the sources from which it draws, those to which it refers, and other catechetical resources based on and consonant with it — will help adults grasp the content of the faith and its practical application in Christian living” (“Our Hearts Were Burning”).
Costella Gaither, in charge of the confirmation program at St. Mary Church in Rock Hill, was encouraged by the document and felt it confirmed their program especially in areas of diversity. “Much of what I heard is a repeat of what we are doing, especially in areas of reaching out to those who are different,” she said.
Gynnis Doolitte, from Our Lady of Peace in North Augusta, found the greatest challenge of the plan is assimilating the information and “plugging it into the ministries.” She was concerned with outreach to inactive Catholics or those who have left the church and looked for guidance in that area.
“With the publication of The General Directory for Catechesis and ‘Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us,’ adult faith formation has become a top priority in the teaching mission of the church. For years, we have spent a majority of our time, energy and resources on developing more effective ways in forming youth. Sister Maureen has helped us as a diocese to see more clearly the importance of adult faith within the catechetical process and how the bishops’ plan should guide our thoughts as we move forward in planning and developing more effective means for adults,” said Schroeder.
“Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us” stated goal is to help all Christians to “fulfill their baptismal call to holiness in family, church, and society — their mission to evangelize and transform the world into a more caring and just society. …”