Catholics desiring to broaden their understanding of the Catholic Church or pursue professional ministry have discovered a valuable resource in the Ministry Formation Program (MFP) of the Diocese of Davenport.
Its flexible structure strives to accommodate adult learners’ schedules by offering classes on site at various sites in the diocese or in small groups in someone’s home or another setting.
MFP offers a two-year basic program, with graduates earning certification as lay ecclesial ministers. For some individuals, the two-year basic MFP has served as a springboard to further education to qualify for positions as parish life administrators/pastoral associates, or in the areas of liturgy and catechetics.
In this continuation of a periodic series, The Catholic Messenger profiles Dan Freeman, who is participating in advanced MFP studies and planning to complete the five-year program.
Dan, 57, and his wife Judy, have three children and three grandchildren. He serves as safety director for Shaw Electric in Davenport, which he praises for allowing him to practice his faith at work.
He serves on the parish council at St. Andrew Parish in Blue Grass and on its Faith Formation committee. He and his wife also assist the parish in any way they can.
Q: What inspired you to pursue adult faith formation through MFP?
A: Deacon Don Frericks, parish life administrator (PLA) of St. Andrew’s, suggested it to my wife several years ago. We were helping out at our parish and he suggested it would enrich us both. It has certainly enriched our faith lives and prompted us to live our faith more fully.
One saying from the old catechism kept coming back to me — Our purpose is to know God, to love God, and to serve God. Judy and I both feel that MFP has helped us grow in our faith. We realized that in practicing our faith and learning more about our faith we fulfill this purpose.
The MFP programs guide us in knowing God; we are more able to express our love of God by serving others and him. We frequently reminisce about the first two years when we would travel to the evening small-group classes. We called them our “date nights.” We also found so many people who care greatly about our Church. Their faith has inspired us to attend additional retreats and classes.
Q: Why did you decide to work toward completing the five-year MFP program?
A: I have also taken the Parish Life Administrator course and have now started the Liturgical Specialization class. They are very challenging, but I realize that our faith and service to God is also not always easy. The better prepared we are, the better we live our lives. The more I understand the more I realize that our traditions are much richer than I thought.
I grew up Methodist and converted when I married my wife. I took several classes in college and thought that I knew about the Catholic Church. I was wrong, and I think that we take our faith and our Church for granted. I never intended to take all the classes. I thought we would take one or two and be done with it. Each class has shown me how much more there is to learn, live and appreciate.
Q: When will you graduate?
A: I must confess that I have a hard time completing all of the assignments. Don’t get me wrong, the assignments are the hands-on approach that helps us put into practice what we have learned in the classes, but I find it hard to allocate my time properly. Even if I don’t receive a commission for class completions, I will never regret the time spent.
Q: How are you using what you’ve learned through MFP in your parish, life, family?
A: Hopefully people that I come into contact with feel that I have improved my contributions to our parish, friends, co-workers and family.
I try not to answer questions authoritatively since I know that I still have a long way to go myself. But it sure feels good to be able to help someone with a problem or question and know in your heart that you truly helped them.
My prayer life has definitely improved. And the resources MFP provides are exceptional. There is so much available that it seems we only scratch the surface. I discovered that we must continue to search for God, and the Church’s resources are a great beginning.
Q: What is the most valuable aspect of MFP for you?
A: The people! IlaMae Hanisch (the MFP director) is a fantastic resource and a great person. Each instructor brings his or her faith story to class and shares it with the rest of us. No one really cares if classes go overtime since we get so engaged.
You realize that the experience is like prayer given up to God as you share and learn. Our classmates also have stories to tell and the sharing enriches all of us. Your classmates become part of your family. We share our triumphs and tragedies with each other because we love one another as Jesus asked us to.