By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
“Faith is not a priority,” one parish faith formation leader said when asked about barriers to faith formation during a recent roundtable discussion. “I think it’s bigger than that,” responded another.
“How do we compete with this culture?” asked one priest. “The hunger is there, but we need to keep it going,” another priest responded.
Clergy, faith formation leaders, catechists, volunteers and parents had the opportunity to speak their minds at roundtable discussions last month. Don Boucher, diocesan director of the Office of Faith Formation, led groups in Muscatine while Rosina Hendrickson, Lifelong Faith and Lay Ministry Formation Coordinator, led groups in Oskaloosa.
The roundtable discussions were unusual in that they were intended to provide a platform for expression as opposed to instruction, Boucher told a group in Muscatine. “This isn’t a session where the diocese tells you what to do, or where you’ll be talked at all day.” Instead, participants did the talking.
Participants viewed questions on a PowerPoint slide and were given time to think and reflect. Individuals shared their perspectives with others at their round tables, recording comments anonymously on a large piece of white paper. The comments were taped on a back wall for all to see. The group discussed the issues collectively.
The process was repeated as facilitators asked the following questions: What are the realities of your parish; what are the challenges; what do you need; and what are your dreams?
Boucher and Hendrickson noted that the format allowed participants to be able to share their feelings without fear of being judged. They were thankful that participants felt comfortable contributing to the dialogue. Hendrickson said, “Each parish, ministry and family is going to have a different answer to the questions raised.”
The dialogue may help the Faith Formation Office learn more about the needs and realities of the parishes and individuals in the Diocese of Davenport. But, more so, Boucher and Hendrickson hope that the dialogue will foster a sense of community and a culture that allows for judgment-free dialogue throughout the diocese. Problems can only be solved if they are identified, Hendrickson noted.
Boucher observes that people involved with faith formation feel overwhelmed at times by the realities they face, whether it’s dropping enrollment numbers, youths who leave the church after confirmation, or knowing that things need to change but fearing failure if a new approach doesn’t work. People may feel as if no one else has those issues, but that isn’t the case. By speaking up, “we can begin to foster a sense in this diocese that we are all in this together. We can support and resource each other in addressing these issues.”
The Office of Faith Formation will offer another session of roundtable discussions on March 2 at St. Andrew Parish in Blue Grass. The session will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., with lunch to follow. There is no cost for the event, but a free will offering will be taken to cover morning hospitality and lunch. For more information, visit the website at http://www.davenportdiocese.org/shred. Registrations are accepted online until Feb. 27 at http://www.davenportdiocese.org/shred-registration.
If you would like to bring this roundtable to your parish, group of parishes or deanery, please contact Rosina Hendrickson at hendrickson@
davenportdiocese.org or (563) 888-4244.