By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
“Everyone needs support and assistance in living a life of discipleship, of fulfilling our vocational call that finds its roots in our baptism. Each of us is called by God to be priest, prophet and king,” said Don Boucher, director of the Office of Faith Formation and coordinator of Youth & Young Adult Ministry.
Lifelong faith formation helps all believers on their journey to the Father, he said. The Office of Faith Formation is ready to accompany them.
It is among the diocesan offices funded largely by the Annual Dioces
an Appeal (ADA), which kicks off Sept. 26-27 in parishes across the Davenport Diocese. The campaign funds about three-fourths of the annual diocesan budget. “Our diocesan staff serves as a resource for our parishes to help us be a eucharistic people,” said Sister Laura Goedken, OP, diocesan director of development and the ADA coordinator. This year’s goal — $3,130,000 — is up 2.8 percent over last year, mainly because of salary increases and guest speakers for diocesan-wide programs, she noted. Other programs funded by the annual appeal include seminary education, safe environment, finance office and the office of Bishop Martin Amos.
The Faith Formation Office’s professional staff, all new to the diocese in the last three years, have done an assessment of society and parish needs in order to focus their work. They are spending more time on marriage and family life and also on young adults, Sr. Goedken said.
“We come to know our God by learning more about him and his church, and by encountering him and his Son and the spirit in the sacramental and everyday moments of our lives. The more we come to know our God and encounter him, the deeper our love for him grows,” Boucher said. “Faith formation provides us with many of the tools and support we need to do all this. Other than giving praise and thanksgiving to God for all the blessings of life and for loving us beyond all human understanding, what else is more important in our life as children of God?”
Boucher’s role as director of the Faith Formation Office is to strengthen the staff’s sense of being a team. “We’ve got a great staff, and we work well together, so we’ve got a great foundation upon which to build. Since we’re all relatively new (except Barb, who’s been here 15 years), we’re still getting to know each other’s strengths, gifts, expertise, etc. We’re moving in the right direction, and I’m excited about that.”
In youth ministry, he said leaders are doing great things, but fewer youths stick to their faith beyond high school, according to recent studies. “We need to move from Youth Ministry 1.0 or Youth Ministry 2.0 into Youth Ministry 3.0. Old approaches can’t be relied on to stop the exodus that’s happening. What’s 3.0 look like? Not sure, but we’ve got some clues. We need to be willing to risk doing things in a new way to stem the tide.”
Young adult ministry presents another challenge. Boucher said he is helping parish leaders to be more sensitive to and aware of young adults’ needs. “This is such a broad area of ministry, and extremely varied. Age spectrum: 18-39. States of life: undergraduate/graduate college students, single, dating, engaged, newly-married, newly-married with children, living together, married with young families, separated, divorces, blended families … the list goes on. To be effective here, parish leaders need to have multi-colored glasses to view the varied territory and see how these varied needs affect parish ministry and their delivery systems.”
Marianne Agnoli is the diocese’s marriage and family life coordinator. In that position she is responsible for coordination, collaboration, administration and leadership in marriage and family formation. She also oversees development and training of leaders in support of marriage and family life. In her work she has identified areas of marriage and family life in need of attention. Among them: marriage preparation programming, Sponsor Couple training that includes Spanish and Vietnamese speakers, promotion and availability of Natural Family Planning instruction, marriage enrichment, support for marriages and families experiencing difficulties, support for individuals and families affected by same- sex attraction, parenting programs and resources for young families and faith enrichment opportunities for the elderly.
“Whether we know it or not, from the moment of our conception we are each being formed in our understanding of Christian faith,” Agnoli said. “I believe that this is especially true of our preparation for marriage and family life. I believe that the entire faith community should make it a priority to assist families in their vital role as the primary educators of their children. Both the present and future of our church depends on it.”
John Valenti is the diocese’s coordinator of lifelong faith and Lay Ministry Formation. He assumes the Ministry Formation Program (Lay Ministry Formation) from Agnoli on Oct. 1. He oversees religious education curriculum, teacher and catechist certification and leadership formation. He also is responsible for catechetical guidelines, handbooks, consultation and recommendations for pre-school through high school and students with special needs. He serves as a consultant to parishes in the recruitment, interviewing and selection of parish catechetical/faith formation leaders. He also serves on the Diocesan Board of Education. “Jesus said, ‘Go and make disciples.’ Disciples are those who follow Christ in their daily vocation and continue to learn and grow by his example,’” Valenti says.
The staff is supported by and greatly appreciates the work of Barb Butterworth, administrative assistant, who has been with the department for 15 years. The staff goes to her for “historical” knowledge of the Faith Formation Office.
Butterworth said she is often the “first line of contact and the go to person for our department.” Some of her duties are managing registrations and databases for events, workshops and retreats, creating forms and certificates for various functions and keeping the calendar up to date to “keep our department organized and running smoothly.”