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Catholic Voice
March 9, 2015   •   VOL. 53, NO.5   •   Oakland, CA
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Bishop's Appeal hits record $2.8M raised in 2014
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'That every parish have the best
chance to make disciples'

Margaret M. Turek, brought to the Oakland diocese by Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, leads a new effort to meet the pastoral needs of parishes. "We must do new things to reach out and draw people back to Christ," she said. She heads the Department of Faith Formation and Evangelization, and in this report, outlines how to form "missionary disciples."

You spent time with pastors throughout the diocese in your early months in your new role. What did you learn about the diocese?

There is a great variation among parishes in their ability to offer formation opportunities, largely due to the availability of financial resources. Yet everywhere there is an abundance of very dedicated parish leaders, staff and volunteers who work tirelessly to form disciples of the Lord.

What needs were mentioned by pastors and what needs became apparent to you?

The overarching need is to develop conditions that support the formation of missionary disciples. Specifically, there are three areas that pastors and lay leaders most often identify as deserving our best efforts.

1. A deep and ongoing formation in spirituality and prayer. Our people are waking up to a spiritual hunger. Not only our youth, but also adults and parish catechists are asking to learn how to pray. We need to provide age-appropriate mentoring in prayer and spirituality. Many parents would welcome more guidance in how to integrate a prayer life into their family life.

2. A robust renewal of faith formation. We need to be more effective in leading others to see the relevance of the faith for their lives. Pastors want catechists to be witnesses, on fire with love for Christ, and equipped to share the fullness of faith. Catechists want this too, but it's hard to make time in their busy schedules for their own ongoing formation. We've got to find practical ways to provide quality formation for the formators. We especially need to reach the parents, since they are the primary role models of faith for their children.

3. A new evangelization. We need to develop new ways of reaching out to those on the peripheries of our faith communities — those who have drifted away from the faith, the non-practicing. When it comes to evangelization, many of us are uncomfortable talking about our relationship with Jesus — even to our families. We need to speak with passion and authenticity about our journeys of conversion and commitment to the Lord.

Quite simply, our goal is to help people deepen their personal relationship with Jesus Christ, understand their faith more profoundly, and share that faith with joy.

How are those needs to be met through this reconfiguration of your department?

Patti Collyer is now the Coordinator of Faith Formation for Children and Youth, which combines in one office our diocesan catechetical initiatives, programs and resources for ages 3 to 18. I am taking on a number of responsibilities in the areas of adult spiritual and faith formation, for example, as both director and an instructor in the School for Pastoral Ministry. And we are amplifying our efforts in evangelization by creating a new position: Coordinator of New Evangelization and RCIA. We are looking for someone who excels in reaching out to young adults, to those who are "sacramentalized" but not evangelized, and to those who are seeking entrance to the Church.

Are there specifics about what FFE and the parishes will be doing in the next 12 months? What can people expect?

In consultation with pastors and parish leaders, we will intensify our efforts to form the formators — in the parish and the family. The School for Pastoral Ministry is adding courses in spirituality and prayer. Special courses and presentations are being developed that we may take "on the road" to deaneries and parishes and/or make available on our website.

We are planning summer catechist trainings. People are asking for retreats and days of reflection. We want to make these formation opportunities as accessible as possible in terms of cost, location and time required.

In collaboration with parish leadership, we will facilitate the sharing of best practices and resources, so that every parish may have the best chance to "make disciples." We are developing an Evangelization Video Series on our website, which shows Catholics in the Diocese of Oakland sharing stories about those who were agents of conversion and inspiration in their faith-life, so that parents, priests, catechists and others can see that their witness to Jesus can have real effect.

Right now, we are interviewing parishioners and parents about their prayer life: how they pray and why they pray. FFE is bringing Rev. Bill Watson, SJ, to the diocese March 17-21. He will give a series of Lenten Reflections on Sacred Story Prayer — a prayer process that leads to inner healing, spiritual freedom and a deeper relationship with Christ.

Father Watson will provide resources and instruction to equip parishes to use the prayer process in forming missionary disciples for the new evangelization.

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