In the spring, Father Bernie asked each of the Saint Anne Core Staff members to write a reflection on our ministry roles within the parish, some of which you have seen in the bulletin these past few weeks.
In Lifelong Faith Formation, we see our mission as the farmer in the Parable of the Sower, scattering seeds in the hope they will grow. As Jesus explained the parable to his disciples, he described the farmer as sowing the word of God. He likened the seeds that fell on rocky ground to people who are joyful to receive the word of God but, without root, their joy is short-lived and quickly falls away in times of trial. Our hope is to help provide rich soil and diverse opportunities for the Word to root more deeply in each of us.
Saint Anne Faith Formation is for every person of every age and life stage because we can all benefit from richer soil and deeper roots as we face the myriad challenges that life offers each of us. In my own life, I can firmly attest to the difference deep roots have made. When facing the passing of my parents when I was relatively young, followed by others near and dear to me, my faith helped me to find the beauty and gift of each person’s legacy, keeping them alive by living those gifts with gratitude and sharing them with others. When my own serious health challenges were squarely upon me, I found that my faith provided a never ending source of nourishment, courage and unwavering hope. As things looked worse, my roots grew stronger. When I came through the valley and found myself at the base of the next hill, I was able to persevere through the climb, knowing that God was always there for me, no matter what.
During my time of serious illness, I focused on a picture of the bottom half of a staircase with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “Faith is taking the step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” I continue to live by those words and the freedom and joy in God that they embody.
Upon joining the Saint Anne staff eight years ago, the first thing I did was to change the name of Religious Education to Faith Formation. Why? Because the word “education” is far too limiting. While there is a lot to learn, and it is very important to learn it, to grow deeper roots, we need to move beyond engaging only our heads and encourage greater participation on the part of our hands and our hearts. As we experience every week in Eucharist, we are the bodyof Christ – all in.
As Director of Lifelong Faith Formation, it is my hope to awaken the desire in each person to cultivate knowledge of our faith and a close relationship with God, providing a foundation to live a life of hope and gratitude. While I guide our Faith Formation staff as we seek out ways to bring the word of God to all, I do not see my work here as the church’s ministry – it is our ministry – all of us together bringing each other to a deeper love for all that our faith has to offer. At Saint Anne, there are over 100 parishioners who share themselves in a myriad of ways to support our efforts to grow the faith of our community. These generous souls are models to each of us in cultivating a life of faith and gratitude. Bringing life to this ministry, Faith Formation staff members, Breda Barry King, Marianne Bondi and Carla Czyzewski,each generously share their considerable talents and abilities with the community, and without them, we would not be able to offer all that we do.
Recent generations have come to think of faith formation as something just for children; that idea could not be further from the truth. Our children learn from us. They watch what we do and how we think, much more than we realize. If we as adults are living our lives all in, our children will learn to live theirs in that way as well. They will witness how we make our choices and where we draw our strength from, and they will follow. Unlike all of the material possessions that our society proffers, this is a gift that gives forever.
We hope that you will consider deepening your roots by participating in Faith Formation offerings for adults, children and families throughout the year. Bring an open heart and fertile soil, and we’ll provide the seeds!