God really knows best
August 12, 2018
CIC, Fatima students lunch with Archbishop J*
August 16, 2018

Opportunities for ongoing faith formation

Q: Archbishop J, why does the Church have so many schools during July-August?

In every field of life we need to update constantly. Our faith is no exception. We all have a responsibility to grow constantly in the knowledge of our faith, to deepen our relationship with God and learn new skills for ministry and mission. Our schools assist the lay faithful in this regard. They provide opportunities for ongoing formation.

In his apostolic exhortation, Christifideles Laici (Christian Lay Faithful) Pope St John Paul II expressed this need for ongoing formation. He said: “In this dialogue between God who offers His gifts, and the person who is called to exercise responsibility, there comes the possibility, indeed the necessity, of a total and ongoing formation of the lay faithful, as the Synod Fathers have rightly emphasised in much of their work.

“After having described Christian formation as ‘a continual process in the individual of maturation in faith and a likening to Christ, according to the will of the Father, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit’, they have clearly affirmed that the formation of the lay faithful must be placed among the priorities of a diocese. It ought to be so placed within the plan of pastoral action that the efforts of the whole community (clergy, lay faithful and religious) converge on this goal’” (57, 1988).

We need to offer you opportunities for growth and development: liturgy school, communications’ school, bible school and all other opportunities for learning and deepening the faith.

In August we have two schools back to back—liturgy and communications. They attract different audiences and offer very different formation opportunities. Both are important for the ongoing growth and development of faith.

Liturgy School

School of Liturgy, launched in 1977 by Fr Michel de Verteuil CSSp, Fr Ildefons Schroots OSB and Br Paschal Jordan OSB, was a response to the rapid changes that had happened in liturgy and Church life since the close of Vatican II (1965). It brought together the laity for ongoing formation through lectures in the morning and workshops in the afternoon period.

When it began it ran for two weeks at the Mount and attracted over 200 participants. Workshops included Lectio Divina, Church art, music in the liturgy, preaching, liturgical dance, vestment design, ways of inculturation and many others.

Over the years, this school has formed many people who lead at a parish and diocesan level. It has contributed to the formation of the laity and its participation in Church leadership, in Trinidad and Tobago, at different levels.

It is a miracle that this school has been sustained for the last 41 years, that it continues to attract many people of all ages and engage them in the faith-formation process. It speaks to the maturity of our diocese and the many lay people who have contributed significantly over the years.

Communication School

Some 25 years ago, responding to a new apostolic letter on communications, Archbishop Anthony Pantin invited Sr Angela Ann Zukowski MHSH to Trinidad. She assisted the archdiocese in developing a pastoral plan for communications.

An integral part of the plan was a school of communications. In this school participants learn the theology, spirituality and the skills of pastoral communications. The Caribbean School of Catholic Communications (CSCC) was born in 1994.

Out of the school many people involved in parish and school have seen the real challenge and opportunity of communications for us in the Church today. The participants are introduced to the thinking of the Church on communications.

They are also expected to do a production with their device by the end of the week. The productions are usually of very good quality. Visit www.cscctt.org to see some of the productions.

Last year the bishops of the AEC region wrote a pastoral letter on communications—New Ways of Being Church in a Digital Milieu. In this document, the bishops outlined the challenge and opportunity of communication technology for the world and the Church today.

We need to find new ways of being Church if we are going to pass the faith on to the next generation. The rapid transformation of technology and its impact on every sphere of human experience is here. We need to be communities who collaborate, and hold communion and commitment as high values.

The pastoral letter ended by asking for a pastoral plan for communications that involves all groups. Dayton University used the pastoral letter as an e-seminar and has formed over 100 participants in the Caribbean to date. The momentum has just begun.

A commitment to learning

In our quote above, Pope St John Paul II asked that the whole community, (clergy, lay faithful and religious) converge on the goal of ongoing human formation. As we move to pastoral planning in the archdiocese, we will see more clearly that ongoing formation is an integral part of being a disciple for the 21st century.

Let us all make a commitment to our ongoing formation. It is not difficult. Plan to attend one of the schools next year. Read good Catholic books. Read my weekly column and follow Trinity TV’s Shepherd’s Corner.

Take a course at the seminary (see page 18); sign up for Bible school. Or, you could do a course on Dayton’s learning platform: https://vlcff.udayton.edu. They have many great courses several times a year. Also, many parishes have lectures and other offerings.

Fr Garfield Rochard facilitates the Principles of Liturgy Rites/Lay Ministers workshop at the School of Liturgy 2018. Photo: Gerard-Paul Wanliss

Key Message: Being a missionary disciple requires that we all take responsibility for our ongoing formation; that we commit to and participate in specific learning opportunities each year.

Action Step: Reflect on your commitment to ongoing formation. Have you participated in any formal learning recently? Make a concrete commitment to participate in ongoing formation. Decide on one aspect and put things in place to participate.

Scripture Passage: Mk 6:32–34; Nehemiah 8:1–8.