Greetings Faithful Parishioners in Christ,
Well, here we go! I will start meeting with our young and youth disciples in both parishes the next three Wednesdays to offer confessions and Opening Masses and to explain to them the reasons we are changing from the traditional “parish religious education” model to the present “youth faith formation” model being used in our diocese plus my own approach, method, and added features. I have been doing this in my homilies, writings, and meetings with Parish Councils and team meetings.
For the most part, I am finding some reactions and connfusion from people who have not had the opportunity to get to know more but also great excitement from people who have been involved more and have been closely working with me. This week begins the tougher challenge of engaging our young and youth disciples in an effective but also pastoral manner.
These past few Sundays, other than for last Sunday’s Solemnity of the Assumption, we have been progressing through the Gospel of John chapter 6 which leads up to Jesus’ “Bread of Life” discourse. As He keeps stepping up the challenges of His teachings, He is preparing them to make a very difficult commitment to Him as He claims they must eat his flesh and drink his blood for them to have eternal life.
I see the process of Faith Formation in a similar way. As St. Paul says, he has to begin with milk before he can give them solid food. For people to have effective assimilation of the Faith we have to introduce them to Christ and His Church before we can expect them to be faithful disciples of Christ and His Church. People of all ages have to be “made disciples” before we engage them “as disciples.” For the most part, parish religious education programs have assumed our young people and youth already are disciples. When the degree of difficulty in practicing the Faith steps up, they do not have the personal commitment and discipline to be faithful in living it.
Our parishes’ Faith Formation Missions need to use new approaches, methods, and other means to have a New Evangelization that is more effective in helping our parishioners of all ages to make their personal Faith commitments stronger and to live by them. Some day, we might be challenged like Jesus challenged the Twelve in the Gospel proclamation for today (John 6:60-69) saying, “Do you also want to leave?” If so, will we be able to respond to Jesus like Peter did? Peter replied, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”