As the new evangelization sweeps through the Catholic Church, the Diocese of Superior has its own plan for re-energizing the faithful.
Forming Effective Disciples, or FED, is already refreshing the spirits and souls of many.
“Adults are the living embodiment, right now, of the faith,” said Peggy Schoenfuss, director of the diocesan Office of Catholic Formation and Schools.
Unfortunately, it’s a gift they’ve been taught not to share.
“A lot of generations, they’ve been told not to talk about their faith,” she added. “The majority of our adult population was taught not to talk about their faith, that it was something personal between them and God.”
Enter the FED program. Designed as catechetical training for religious education instructors, FED has developed into an evangelization tool for parishes.
Openly discussing the faith, “something we’re not used to doing,” is a major component of the foundational portion of the two-part program. Adults revisit basic knowledge, concepts and tenets of the faith, Schoenfuss explained, and they talk about their experiences.
The foundational work can also be done online, for “those busy adults that really want to reconnect with their faith again, but just have a really hard time getting to evening events,” or for anyone who isn’t keen on sharing thoughts and feelings.
The second, college-level part of the program is also comprised of online coursework, and “kind of really dives into deeper topics,” she said. Students join the University of Dayton Virtual Learning Community and become a member of an online faith group.
Participants at the foundational level go on a daylong retreat, just to have the experience of disconnecting from daily life, while those at the elevated level commit to a community service project and share their work with the parish.
Catholic Extension, an organization that supports the work of mission dioceses, gave the diocese a grant to purchase Echoes of Faith Plus, the program for foundational faith formation, and packets were sent to each parish.
“I’m kind of building the program curriculum-wise, education-wise,” added Schoenfuss. Each parish or cluster is implementing, scheduling and appointing a facilitator of its own program.
“That’s what the thrust of the program is,” she said.
Response to FED, particularly to the opportunity to talk about Catholicism, has been good, according to Schoenfuss. Depending on the generation of participants, “a lot of them are excited about it,” she continued. “They want to ask questions they’ve had for years.”
The sessions have also given parish leaders a chance to gauge how well parishioners know their religion. Adults sometimes second-guess themselves, she said, but overall, they are very knowledgeable.
“I think our adults are well-educated in their faith,” said Schoenfuss. “They’ve just never been able to express it.”
Parishes using FED for adult faith formation are reporting a lot of interest in the program. At St. Joseph Parish, Rice Lake, a surprising number of people signed up for the foundational sessions.
“They’ve been doing adult stuff all along, and they had 42 people sign up,” she said.
Schoenfuss realizes the materials are short-term, and soon the diocese will need to develop new programming “to keep them growing in their faith.”
“It’s really been an evangelization opportunity,” she added. “We have so many more adults in our parishes that are hungry for something.”