Newly announced director shares his vision
By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Don Boucher, diocesan coordinator of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, will become director of the Office of Faith Formation for the Davenport Diocese on July 1. He succeeds Mary Wieser, longtime diocesan director of faith formation, who is retiring effective June 30. She has served 51 years ministering to Catholics, the last 18 years with the Davenport Diocese.
Bishop Martin Amos commended Wieser for her dedication and leadership in Faith Formation and said Boucher’s credentials make him a good choice to serve as the office’s new director.
“An interview team met with Don and followed up with one-on-one meetings with the office staff. All were very optimistic about Don’s abilities as a collaborator,” said Char Maaske, the Davenport Diocese’s chief financial officer and member of the interview team. “He is nationally respected in his role of youth and young adult minister and the team felt he was prepared and qualified for this next challenge.”
Boucher said he’s excited about his new position, which will allow him to continue his work with Youth and Young Adult Ministry. “While I’ll be director of the Office of Faith Formation, I’m not going to be the director of faith formation. We’re looking at faith formation in a very broad sense.”
As part of that broader look, the Faith Formation staff proposed to Bishop Amos a restructuring of the office that builds on the staff’s strengths and gifts and the needs of people in the diocese. The plan calls for Boucher to serve as director, overseeing three coordinator positions related to various aspects of faith formation. Two of the coordinator positions are occupied; the third — coordinator of lifelong faith formation — will be filled.
Bishop Amos said the restructuring makes sense. “Anytime someone new comes on board you take a look at the overall picture. You take a look at people’s strengths and as a result shift things around. That keeps us growing.”
Besides his extensive training and experience in youth and young adult ministry, Boucher brings solid training in intergenerational faith formation and adolescent catechesis along with a broad vision for lifelong faith formation, the bishop added.
“Personally, I see this as a chance to stretch myself a little bit,” Boucher said. “I’m really excited about that piece.” He also sees an opportunity to practice what he describes as a ministry of accompaniment.
“One of the things we’re looking at is ‘rebooting’ the ‘Strong Catholic Families, Strong Catholic Youth’ initiative.” This is a process rather than a program of faith formation, he noted. It involves church engagement and partnership with parents in their rightful role as primary formers of faith in their families. “It’s looking at, ‘How do we form young people in our faith through everything we do?’” Four of the eight components of youth ministry help address that question: the Word of God, worship, service and community, Boucher said.
For too many years, faith formation in the U.S. has been kid-focused, at the expense of lifelong faith formation. But adult faith formation won’t happen without addressing basic needs — much as missionaries do, Boucher observed.
“We haven’t addressed adult issues; we haven’t addressed parent issues. I want to see if that’s one area we can turn the corner on.” A parent, for instance, might be struggling to deal with a teen-age child; a husband and wife might be dealing with a difficult marriage; a family might be stressed out trying to pay bills. “Once those issues are addressed, we can talk about the faith stuff.
“One of my strengths is that I think I’m sympathetic to where people are and realize the struggles they’re having.” At the same time, “I think I can challenge people to look differently at how we do things.” But that won’t happen immediately. Programs come and go, but processes require time and patience. He sees his office’s goal as being one of encouraging parishes in the process.
Already, he’s been meeting with St. Anthony Parish in Knoxville about the possibility of initiating Strong Catholic Families, Strong Catholic Youth.
“We can’t lose sight of the basic needs of people – which is to be valued, to belong, to have the sense of belonging,” Boucher observed.