Siena E-Scribe, Newsletter of the Catherine of Siena Institute, Colorado Springs, Colorado
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August 2006

in this issue

Kite Flying in Berkeley

What happens when you give Fr. Michael Sweeney, O.P., free reign at a Dominican graduate school of theology? Lots of creativity, of course, and a very tired support staff!

The Institute Down Under
Did you know the Institute was international? We have headquarters and two co-Directors in Melbourne, and Clara Geoghegan tell us about the growing work of the Institute in the land the Aussies fondly call "OZ."

Institute Teacher Ordained
Now you know why we are constantly on the lookout for new teachers. Our old teachers become bishops, marry, or are ordained priests. Fr. Bryan Dolejsi, one of our teacher anchors, is just the latest to be called to new responsibilities!

The Challenge of Adult Faith Formation (part 3)
How do we go about forming adults in our parishes? How do we begin to form a culture of intentional discipleship? It's not easy, but the RCIA period of the catechumenate offers some clues.

on the web

In the Company of Prayer: Their mission is simple: to provide a quick, daily prayer specifically to businessmen and women, who find prayer to be an inspirational tool in the management of their professional lives. You can register to receive a daily Morning Briefing with an inspiring thought for Christians in business.

Who's Afraid of Pseudo-Dionysius? Passive laity, clericalism, the peculiarly Catholic notion that if you're really serious about your faith, you are destined for the rectory or the convent - all have their roots in a fourth century anonymous monk. That's what Russell Shaw claims! Read this article to see why.

What's a Lay Apostolate?
Russell Shaw writes, "I was trying to explain the idea of lay apostolate to an intelligent Catholic laywoman. Oh sure, she said, she knew exactly what I meant. Lay apostolates were lay people participating in parish-based activities of various kinds — serving on the parish council, teaching an RCIA class, things like that." Think again!

Caped Wonder Makes Me...Wonder
Did you notice a resemblance between Superman and a certain carpenter from Nazareth? A short reflection on the Man of Steel and a Man of Flesh by Bill Donaghy.

An Online Retreat Creighton University offers a 34-week retreat that follows the model of the Ignatian spiritual exercises. Its primary focus is the life of Christ and the grace we experience in our everyday lives. You may be begin at any time, use your own timeline, do it alone, or with friends. You can also read the reflections of others who are taking the retreat, and add your own for others to reflect upon. The site includes images to download each week to help you focus on your retreat every time you open your computer!

Fifty Quotes on Forgiveness from a variety of authors. Here's a sample, "God invented forgiving as a remedy for a past that not even he could change and not even he could forget. His way of forgiving is the model for our forgiving." Everyone needs forgiveness, and all of us need help in understanding forgiveness so that we can do it better; after all, we ask God to forgive us in the manner we forgive others!


July 30 - August 3
Colorado Springs, CO
Sunday evening through Thursday noon. This is a workshop for pastors, parish staff, or leaders who would like to explore how to make their parish a house of formation where adults are effectively challenged to become disciples and empowered to discern and live their mission as apostles.
Location: The Franciscan Retreat Center, nestled in the foothills of the Rockies just north of Colorado Springs at 6500 ft elevation. The Retreat Center provides panoramic views of the Rampart Range and the Pikes Peak region.
This workshop is full, but we are planning to host others next year!
Unfortunately, we had to cancel the Oakland workshop. Everyone seems to want to spend part of their summer in the Rockies!

called and gifted workshops

August 9, 2006
Houston, TX
(Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston)
A special, one-day Called & Gifted Workshop at St. Thomas More Catholic Church.
CONTACT: Father Sean Wenger CC, or the Center office at (713) 236-9977 x 15.

August 18-19, 2006
Walnut, CA
(Archdiocese of Los Angeles)

St. Lorenzo Ruiz Catholic Church
CONTACT: Kathleen Buckley, Faith Formation Director, or the Parish office at (909) 595-9545.

August 25-26, 2006
Chelsea, Victoria, Australia
(Archdiocese of Melbourne)

St. Joseph Catholic Church
CONTACT: the parish office at 03 9772 2211 or inquire by e-mail.

September 8-9, 2006
Houston, TX
(Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston)

Catholic Charismatic Center
CONTACT: Father Sean Wenger CC, or the Center office at (713) 236-9977 x 15

Papillion, NE
(Archdiocese of Omaha)

St. Columbkille Catholic Church
CONTACT: Pam Yenko, Director of Liturgy & Stewardship, or the Parish office at (402) 339-3285 ext 106.

September 15-16, 2006
South Tuggerenanong
(Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn)

Corpus Christi Catholic Church
CONTACT: Fr. John Armstrong at (02) 62916688

September 22-23, 2006
Greenville, SC
(Diocese of Charleston)

St. Mary Catholic Church
CONTACT: David Tiede Hottinger, Assistant to the Pastor for Discipleship and Evangelization at (864) 271-8422 ext 11.

October 6-7, 2006
Livermore, CA
(Diocese of Oakland)

St. Michael Catholic Church
CONTACT: Deacon Bill Archer, Pastoral Associate, or the Parish office at (925) 447-1585 ext 12.

October 10-11, 2006
Sierra Madre, CA
(Archdiocese of Los Angeles)

Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre. Called & Gifted Workshop for members of the Parish Leadership Network of Los Angeles (PLNLA).
CONTACT: Ann Brown, Coordinator of Lay Ministries at Our Lady of the Assumption parish in Claremont CA, at (909) 626-3596 ext 235.

October 13-14, 2006
Tucson, AZ (Diocese of Tucson)
St. Pius X Catholic Church
CONTACT: The parish office at (520) 326-5075.

Beaumaris, Victoria, Australia
(Archdiocese of Melbourne)

Stella Maris Catholic Church
CONTACT: the parish office at 03 9589 2271 or inquire by e-mail.

October 20-21, 2006
Valley City, ND
(Diocese of Fargo)

St. Catherine of Alexandria Catholic Church.
CONTACT: Father Michael Schommer, Pastor, or the Parish office at (414) 258-2604.

October 27-28, 2006
Akron, OH
(Archdiocese of Cleveland)
St. Sebastian Catholic Church CONTACT: Father William Karg, Pastor, or the Parish office at (330) 836-2233.

Teacher Training

August 25-27, 2006
Bothell, WA
(Archdiocese of Seattle)

St. Brendan Catholic Church

A training workshop to prepare teachers to present the Called & Gifted workshop for the Catherine of Siena Institute.
Prerequisite: Attend and successfully complete the Institute's Interviewer & Facilitator Training workshop.

CONTACT: Mike Dillon at the Institute Office (719) 219-0056 or e-mail Mike.

Interviewer Training

August 11-12, 2006
Olympia, WA
(Archdiocese of Seattle)
St. Michael Catholic Church

Learn how to help others (as individuals or in small groups) to discern their charisms.
* Basic listening skills and spiritual maturity (best if practicing Christian for 2 years prior)
* Must have attended live Called & Gifted workshop or listened to CDs or audio tapes, took Catholic Spiritual Gifts Inventory, did some personal discernment, had a one-on-one personal gifts interview.

CONTACT: Catherine of Siena Institute office: (719) 219-0056; or Kathleen Wright, Steward for Time, Talent & Evangelization at St Michael Catholic Church (360) 754-4667.

September 15-16, 2006
Tucson, AZ
(Diocese of Tucson)

St. Pius X Catholic Church
CONTACT: Catherine of Siena Institute office: (719) 219-0056 or St Pius X parish office (520) 326-5075.

November 17-18, 2006
Colorado Springs, CO
(Diocese of Colorado Springs)

Catherine of Siena Institute
CONTACT: Mike Dillon at (719) 219-0056

March 9-10, 2007
Greenville, SC
(Diocese of Charleston)

St. Mary Catholic Church
CONTACT: Mike Dillon at the Institute Office (719) 219-0056, or Kate Tierney locally, at (864) 297-8232

For Reflection


"In your wisdom I have come to know the truth; in your mercy I have found your charity and affection for my neighbors. What has compelled you? Not my virtues, only your charity.

Let this same love compel you to enlighten the eye of my understanding with the light of faith, so that I may know your truth, which you have revealed to me. Let my memory be great enough to hold your favors, and set my will ablaze in your charity’s fire. Let that fire burst the seed of my body and bring forth blood; then with that blood, given for love of your blood, and with the key of obedience, let me unlock heaven’s gate.

I heartily ask the same of you for every reasoning creature, all and each of them, and for the mystic body of the holy Church. I acknowledge and do not deny that you loved me before I existed, and that you love me unspeakably much, as one gone mad over your creature.

O eternal Trinity! O Godhead! That Godhead, your divine nature, gave the price of your Son’s blood its value. You, eternal Trinity, are a deep sea: The more I enter you, the more I discover, the more I seek you. You are insatiable, you in whose depth the soul is sated yet always remains hungry for you, thirsty for you, eternal Trinity, longing to see you with the light in your light. Just as the deer longs for the fountain of living water, so does my soul long to escape from the prison of my darksome body and see in you truth. O how long will you hide your face from my eyes?"

The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena

Thank You...

Fr. Mike gratefully acknowledges the hospitality shown to him by Fr. Paul Wicker, of Holy Apostles Church, Colorado Springs. Fr. Paul opens his home to Fr. Mike when Institute business calls him to "headquarters." Thanks, also, to Col. Liz Anderson of Colorado Springs, who provides Fr. Mike with a vehicle for transportation during his visits and delicious meal replacement bars to keep his energy up!

Once again, thank you to Anna Elias-Cesnik and Patricia Mees Armstrong for their help in editing this edition of the e-Scribe.


Kite Flying in Berkeley
by Fr. Chris Renz, O.P., Academic Dean, Dominican School of Philosophy & Theology

(editor's note) Two years ago, Fr. Michael Sweeney, O.P., the co-founder of the Catherine of Siena Institute, became the President of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, the graduate theological school and seminary of the Western Dominican Province. Last year the Catherine of Siena Institute affiliated with the DSPT, and members of both institutions are looking forward to fruitful collaboration in the future.

When I look at my last two years at the Dominican School of Philosophy & Theology (DSPT), I see a kite (a.k.a. Fr. Michael Sweeney, O.P.), attached to a string (a.k.a. me), tethered to the ground (a.k.a. the administration and staff of the DSPT). These days we are certainly flying high with great excitement about our new physical plant, new faculty, new programs and, most of all, our new students.
Continuing the visionary enthusiasm evident during his tenure with the Catherine of Siena Institute, Fr. Michael seems to have caught a spirited breeze. For those of you who know him, or have worked with him, you won’t be surprised when I say that it is frequently hard to keep up with his creative imagination. There is a joke around the office that we on staff dread his adventures out on the road because he always returns with two or three additional projects for us to do! It is that wonderful energy which has moved us forward these last two years into a new place, both literally and symbolically.

Beginning in August 2006, the DSPT has a “place to call our own” at the corner of Arch & Vine Streets in Berkeley, CA. Although we were at the Graduate Theological Union since 1964, we were unable to find suitable classroom or administrative space. But now that we’ve got it, our sites are set high for the twenty-first century. Moving into this new millennium, the DSPT will have three very smart classrooms. The IQ of one of them is so high that it will be able to handle a variety of multimedia requests including, we hope in the not-too-distant future, distance learning.

We’ll be calling upon the expertise of one of our faculty, Fr. Michael Morris, OP, to help initiate the space. With a background in art history, and a deep commitment to religion and the arts, Fr. Michael has organized an exhibition of movie posters from films with religious themes. Part of the exhibit will be at the GTU Library, the rest in our own DSPT galleria.

Fr. Sweeney keeps us soaring upward with developing two new programs. The first, an expansion of our MA (Theology) degree, will focus on the theology of the laity. Enrolled students will have the opportunity, for the first time, to take summer classes, which may be applied towards either CE credit, the DSPT MA (Theology) degree, or the STL degree (offered through the Angelicum, in Rome). The second new program, still a few years away (the staff can only work so fast, after all!), will offer a curriculum specifically tailored to the needs of business and professional executives who seek to integrate theology in their leadership roles. It is our hope that these programs will continue to expand the already diverse student population.

Which reminds me, this fall 2006 we will welcome 14 lay women, as well as a number of religious from communities other than the Order of Preachers. And, of course, now that the Institute and DSPT are collaborative partners, it would seem that the sky’s the limit! So do come to visit us at Arch & Vine. But make sure to bring sunglasses and a strong pair of binoculars, ‘cause, we’ve gone stratosphere!

The Institute Down Under
by Clara Geoghegan, O.P.L., co-Director, Catherine of Siena Institute, Australia

The Catherine of Siena Institute, Australia was established in October 2004, when we enjoyed the company of Sherry Weddell and Fr. Mike Fones, OP, who shaClarared with us with their pastoral experience and wisdom. Over a grueling ten days Sherry and Fr. Mike conducted a Called & Gifted workshop, provided interviewer training, teacher training and much, much, more to an enthusiastic group of Aussies. This has resulted in our being able to conduct Called & Gifted workshops in southern Australia.

Sherry’s and Fr. Mike’s visit was made possible by the Archdiocese of Melbourne, and the Archdiocese continues to sponsor the work of the Institute. To date we have taught the Called & Gifted workshop in six Melbourne parishes and will be conducting workshops in two more this fall (see the side panel for details). All our workshops have been well attended and are generating wider interest within the Catholic community and beyond. Our teachers in Melbourne have been Lorraine McCarthy, Bernadette de Bruyn, Br. Paul Rowse, OP, and me.

In May I traveled to Wagga Wagga where, together with local Called & Gifted teachers Sr. Margaret Knagge and Fr. Gerard Ryan, we presented a workshop to the education consultants of the Catholic Schools Office. The response to the workshop was enthusiastic, particularly its value in team building for the staff.

The Institute has also worked in the Archdiocese of Canberra-Goulburn, where we have a team of interviewers and the beginnings of a teaching team. The third Canberra workshop is scheduled for September 15-16 at Corpus Christi Parish, South Tuggerenanong. Fr. John Armstrong, the parish priest, is strongly supportive. Another exciting development is the interest that Fr. Chris Ryan, MGL, has shown in the work of the Institute. Fr. Chris is a member of the Missionaries of God's Love - a young Australian congregation, and is the pastor at St Benedict's Narrabundah. He contacted me after purchasing CDs of the Called & Gifted workshop from the U.S. He and members of his parish will participate in the workshop in South Tuggerenanong with a view to hosting one in Narrabundah. Why is Fr. Chris' WYDlogointerest so exciting? He is chaplain to World Youth Day! He received the WYD cross in Rome and will be absent from his parish from March next year to take the Cross on pilgrimage throughout the country. The cross was made to stand next to the high altar in St. Peter's for the 1983 Holy Year, and was given by the pope afterwards to the youth of the world as a symbol of Christ's love for us and a sign of our redemption. Fr. Chris sees great potential for the Called and Gifted workshop as a formation tool for the seventy WYD diocesan leaders.

The big local news for Canberra is that Bishop Mark Coleridge has been named Archbishop and will be installed on August 17, 2006. This is wonderful news for Canberra and for the Institute. Bishop Coleridge, a former auxiliary bishop in Melbourne, is the reason we exist in that archdiocese, and he will be a great support to the Canberra team.

In planning the future direction of the Institute, we continue to receive inquiries from parishes and various organizations within the Church. We have been approached by the Thomas More Centre with a view to teaching a workshop to young people involved in the organization of World Youth Day. We are planning to have a short presentation for the Days in the Dioceses leading up to World Youth Day, we hope with young adult presenters. We are currently training more teachers and interviewers in order to spread the workload.

We are excited about the future of the Institute in Australia, and ask for your prayers as the Holy Spirit continues to breathe new life into the Australian Catholic Church!

Institute Teacher Ordained in Seattle
by Fr. Michael Fones, O.P., co-director, Catherine of Siena Institute

On a beautiful, sunny June 10 in Seattle, WA, Archbishop Alex J. Brunett ordained seven priests for the Archdiocese of Seattle in St. James Cathedral. Among the seven-member ordination class, the largest in the Archdiocese since 1968, was Bryan Dolesji, a teacher with the Institute for four years. Anyone who knows Bryan or has seen him teach would agree that this is a great moment for the Archdiocese. Not only is Bryan a gifted teacher, he brings to his ministry an exuberant love for people Fr. Bryanand charisma that will make him a beloved pastor. In addition, because of his long collaboration with the Institute, he has a deep understanding of the role of the pastor. He will be able to help identify, call forth, and coordinate the charisms of the people in his parish, all of which comprise pastoral governance.

Actually, I should have written that Fr. Bryan will be helping call for the charisms of the people in his parishes. Although the Archdiocese ordained seven men, there is still a shortage of clergy in Seattle. Consequently, Fr. Bryan was appointed Parochial Vicar of Sacred Heart Church, St. Ann Church, St. John of the Woods Church, and Visitation Church in Tacoma! He will be serving the English-speaking community, while two other priests serve the Hispanic and Vietnamese communities.

Fr. Bryan's ordination class reflects the current trends of men entering the priesthood in this country. Their average age is 36, and two were not born in the U.S. All but one had post-graduate degrees. Nationally, almost 80 percent of the men slated for ordination in 2006 completed a college degree before entering the seminary and 30 percent had attained a graduate degree. The average age of the class of 2006 is 37 and almost a third of the men were born outside the United States.

Congratulations, Bryan! You will be a great blessing to the people of the Archdiocese of Seattle.

The Challenge of Adult Faith Formation (part 3)
by Fr. Michael Fones, O.P., co-director, Catherine of Siena Institute

This spring and summer I have been exploring the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) as a model for adult catechesis, a recommendation made by the U.S. bishops in their document, Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us. In my first article on this topic, I outlined the bishops' goals for adult faith formation: conversion to the Lord, active membership in the Church, and the preparation of adults to act as disciples in mission to the world.  The Catherine of Siena Institute, with its mission of helping parishes form lay apostles, is a wonderful resource for any community that would take the bishops' letter to heart. In the May issue of the e-Scribe, I pointed out that the first stage of the RCIA process, the precatechumenate, is described as an important time of conversion from an old way of life to a new way in Christ. This stage is almost universally presumed to have happened when we deal with adult Catholic Christians, but it is not necessarily the case! I also suggested that parishes consider ways for parishioners who have undergone conversions and who have established or deepened their relationship to Jesus to share their stories with other members of the parish.

In this third of four installments, I will offer some ways in which elements of the catechumenate can be adapted to comprehensive parish-wide adult faith formation.  Yet before we further our examination of the RCIA process, a couple of disclaimers are in order.

  1. Neither I, nor the U.S. bishops, are suggesting that we simply add baptized Catholic adults to the RCIA process. I imagine this is a temptation in some parishes. In several campus ministries where I have served, parishioners would hear great things about the catechetical formation the catechumens were receiving, the close-knit community that was forming, and the spiritual growth that was happening and ask, "why can't you open up the RCIA process to the rest of the parish?" It is imperative to remember that there is a real difference between the baptized and the non-baptized; a distinction that many American Catholics are loathe to admit. Yet baptism does something; it is not merely symbolic.  The baptized have received sanctifying grace, they have been sealed by the Holy Spirit, they have received a character that sets them apart for the worship of God. Even the decision to celebrate the rite of reception into full communion with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil is not necessarily the norm, but must be "guided by the theological and pastoral directives proper to each rite" [RCIA study edition, Appendix 1:4, 562 (all the following citations in brackets are from the RCIA Study Edition)] and be consistent with "respect for ecumenical values and be guided by attentiveness both to local conditions and to personal and family preferences. The person to be received should always be consulted about the form of reception."  [Appendix I:4, 564]
  2. I recommend that people who are serious about adult faith formation read through the RCIA process! There are many important directives that will help guide those who seek to utilize it as a model for adult faith formation. 
  3. I suspect it will take a significant amount of time to develop an effective adult faith formation process in a parish. Our temptation will be to put together a program based on the RCIA process. I suggest that we focus on assessing our effectiveness in our formation efforts, rather than on whether or not we have a program in place. Pastoral leaders must have the courage to evaluate their efforts dispassionately, and to change aspects in the formation process that do not seem to have a long-lasting effect on adult participants. Just as in the discernment process, in which knowing where we are not gifted is success, knowing what doesn't work is also success! 
  4. The suggestions that follow are by no means exhaustive, but are a cursory examination into some possibilities for adult faith formation. In reality, adults in our parishes are in various stages of faith: from baptized but not catechized seekers, to intentional disciples, to lay apostles. No single "program" will meet the needs of every adult. Pastors, pastoral staff, and lay leaders will need to examine the various formational needs of the adults in their parishes and respond to them creatively.
The first goal of adult faith formation mentioned by the U.S. bishops in Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us, is conversion to Christ. The RCIA describes it as follows:

75§2 As they become familiar with the Christian way of life and are helped by the example and support of sponsors, godparents, and the entire Christian community, the catechumens learn to turn more readily to God in prayer, to bear witness to the faith, in all things to keep their hopes set on Christ, to follow supernatural inspiration in their deeds, and to practice love of neighbor, even at the cost of self-renunciation.

This is what we at the Institute have begun calling intentional discipleship. Intentional discipleship, born of a genuine conversion to Jesus that is prompted and supported by God's grace, is not “unconscious” or accidental, nor is it merely cultural. One is not a disciple simply by the fact of being born into a Catholic family, having attended Catholic schools, following the rules, going to Mass on Sunday, or generally being described as a good person.  One can do all those things and still not fit the description in the preceding paragraph!

Intentional discipleship requires a deliberate decision to follow Jesus Christ as Lord. When that happens, people's lives change, sometimes dramatically. Their priorities change.  They worship, pray, serve others, give, study their faith, and discern their vocation not out of guilt, but out of a living, growing relationship with God. These behaviors begin to flow from within, from the stream of life-giving water Jesus promises his disciples (John 4:14), rather than from an external source.

In the last issue of the e-Scribe I mentioned that prayer, proclamation of the Scriptures, personal testimony and the public recognition and celebration of personal conversion are important in fostering intentional discipleship. What elements from the catechumenate might help parishes assist adults in their faith formation?
The RCIA describes the catechumenate as "an extended period during which the candidates are given suitable pastoral formation and guidance, aimed at training them in the Christian life." [75] Note that the catechumenate does not have a specific length.  It "should be long enough – several years if necessary – for the conversion and faith of the catechumens to become strong." [76] This suggests that adult faith formation should be recognized as a process, not a program or simply a series of courses from which an adult "graduates," guaranteed to be a disciple.  If we are going to form adults effectively, we must recognize their differences, and be willing to walk with them as individuals. That's a daunting task for parishes with memberships in the thousands!

The RCIA mentions four ways in which conversion and faith can be deepened. I will mention them, and discuss in this and the next e-Scribe how they might be used in the formation of adult Catholics.

  1. Suitable catechesis by priests, deacons, catechists, others of the faithful "accommodated to the liturgical year, and solidly supported by celebrations of the word.  This catechesis leads the catechumens not only to an appropriate acquaintance with dogmas and precepts but also to a profound sense of the mystery of salvation in which they desire to participate." [75] "Celebrations of the word may also be held in connection with catechetical or instructional meetings of the catechumens, so that these will occur in the context of prayer." [83]
  2. The help of sponsors, godparents, and the entire Christian community. Catechumens "learn to turn more readily to God in prayer, to bear witness to the faith, in all things to keep their hopes set on Christ, to follow supernatural inspiration in their deeds, and to practice love of neighbor, even at the cost of self-renunciation." [75§2] They participate in a spiritual journey, "passing from the old to a new nature made perfect in Christ." [75§2]
  3. Suitable liturgical rites which purify and strengthen with God's blessing. [75]
  4. Because the Church's life is apostolic, "catechumens should also learn how to work actively with others to spread the Gospel and build up the Church by the witness of their lives and by professing their faith." [75]

Suitable catechesis. No matter who is teaching, whether clergy or laity, two questions must be asked. First, "are people learning?" Suitable catechesis takes work. The catechist must take into consideration the education level, interests, available time and life situation of the adults being catechized. People will not come back for more catechesis if they do not understand what is being taught. What works for one person won't work for another: some are drawn by ideas, others by feelings, by example, or through reflections on their own experience, or through scripture. Effective catechesis that is suitable for the variety of people in our parishes requires tremendous creativity!

Secondly, the catechist needs to connect catechesis to the various lived experience of adults. Some will be married, others single, divorced or widowed; others will be retired or disabled. Their various careers will give them unique perspectives on issues in the world and in the Church. Good catechists will constantly be asking themselves how they can connect their teaching to the wealth of experiences of adults. The faith must be presented as much more than ideas to which we give our intellectual assent. Our faith is a reality that challenges our assumptions, our common sense, and "the way things are in this world." The parish will likely have a number of people who can help catechize in particular areas, and they should be utilized.  For example, a Catholic physician might be an excellent resource in discussions concerning the Church's teaching on birth control, natural family planning and abortion, while a social worker may have insights into some of the factors that lead to homelessness, especially among the working poor, and could enrich a conversation on some of the Church's social teaching. Catechesis that fosters discipleship "should be of a kind that while presenting Catholic teaching in its entirety also enlightens faith, directs the heart toward God, fosters participation in the liturgy, inspires apostolic activity, and nurtures a life completely in accord with the spirit of Christ." [78] Such catechesis will help adults realize that their daily decisions are part of the mystery of Christ's ongoing redemption of the world.

The RCIA suggests that catechetical instruction can take place in conjunction with a liturgy of the word, so that catechesis happens in the context of prayer [81, 82]. The scriptures themselves are the root of the church's teaching, and naturally can be an integral part of catechetical instruction. Effective catechesis utilizing Scripture will helps adults connect the Scriptures to the daily living of their faith.  Specifically, this can occur in the context of teaching "the morality characteristic of the New Testament, the forgiving of injuries and insults, a sense of sin and repentance, [and] the duties Christians must carry out in the world…." [82] Part of adult catechesis needs to include instruction on prayer, and again the scriptures and the Church's rich tradition offers many resources, including lectio divina and the praying of the psalms, either on their own or as part of the liturgy of the hours. The catechist's prayer during the preparation of their instruction is crucial, for therein he or she will ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit for themselves and for those who are to be catechized. At the same time, catechists, including clergy, would do well to ask others to pray for the success of particular adult formation events.

But in addition to introducing prayer resources, catechists and other members of the parish can model personal prayer from the heart. This is something that should seem natural, yet is not, for at least some Catholics. Not only does this include extemporaneous verbal prayer shared with others, but also that prayer which flows from within the individual heart, reflecting one's desires, fears, questions, surprise, joy, gratitude – all the emotions and thoughts that are a part of human life. Part of preparing the soil for intentional discipleship is giving people the permission to speak to God from the heart and from one's experience and modeling that personal intimacy with our Creator. But that experience must begin with a recognition of what God has done for us, hence the importance of using the Scriptures in catechesis. It is in the stories of deliverance from the bondage of slavery in Exodus, and stories of the deliverance from sin, blindness, illness, possession and death in the New Testament that Jesus offers, that the individual begins to understand why we call God's self-revelation good news, and why it is good news for them! The reflection for this e-Scribe from St. Catherine's Dialogue is an example of a Christian caught up in wonder of the personal love that God has for her.  Suitable catechesis is that which not only satisfies our craving to know the faith, it inflames the heart with wonder over the love, beauty, truth and goodness of God. We will know our catechesis is suitable when it becomes an integral part of an adult's deepening conversion, changing his or her life.

The Catherine of Siena Institute is affiliated with the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, Berkeley, California


Fr. Michael Fones, O.P.
1021 N. Warren Avenue
Tucson, AZ  85719 
co-Director, Catherine of Siena Institute 
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