Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Envisioning Faith Formation At Transfiguration

Published October 28, 2010

How can faith formation flourish in Catholic parishes over the next 10 years?

On Wednesday, Oct. 17, John Roberto, national speaker and founder of “A Project of Lifelong Faith,” addressed that question and challenged 200 catechists and parish leaders at Transfiguration Church, Marietta.

Roberto began the presentation by identifying 13 key trends and forces that will influence faith formation over the next decade, including:  declining participation; increasing social, cultural and religious diversity in the U.S.; changing structures and patterns of family life; and the impact of the digital world.

He pre- sented two critical uncertainties that will affect the future: Will trends in our culture lead people to become more receptive or more resistant to organized religion and Christianity? Will people’s searching and hunger for God and the spiritual life increase or decrease over the next decade?

Participants divided into groups to explore age-specific dominant cultural attitudes toward organized religion. They also brainstormed strategies for encouraging participation in faith formation. Msgr. Patrick Bishop, Transfiguration’s pastor, closed the presentation challenging parish leaders to use their talents to creatively plan new ideas and strategies to teach the Catholic faith.

The next day, parish staff met with Roberto to explore initiatives for meeting the needs of various groups over the next 10 years. During this discussion, several conclusions emerged. First, a digital presence is paramount in faith formation. Next, programs are needed to bring young children, families and seniors to the church  (for example, exercise and health and wellness classes, support groups, interesting speakers). Finally, the parish community needs to find ways to celebrate milestones, such as back-to-school backpack blessings, high school and college graduations, anniversaries and retirements.

The leaders of the parish’s ministries were inspired by the discussion and the initiatives. Sheila Murray, youth minister, identified the need to build up Transfiguration’s young adult ministry and to look for opportunities that meet the needs of these 18-30 year olds. The parish’s video coordinator and youth minister, Matt Calvo, was inspired to build new websites targeting ChrisTeen (grades 7-12) and Cradle Catholics (Transfiguration’s young family ministry). And Chris Reilly, chair of the parish life committee, was eager to look at programs that could be presented on campus as well as on the Internet.

Overall, the staff agreed with Roberto’s observation that much energy is devoted to developing programs for those people of vibrant faith who are already actively engaged in the parish community. While it is important to nourish those who come to the table, they must be empowered to take Christ into the community.

The imperative is to reach out to people wherever they are in their faith journey, whether participating fully, spiritual but not religious, or at a crossroads. To be successful in telling the Catholic story over the next decade and beyond, members of the parish learned through this experience that it is essential to redesign traditional programs by embracing new ideas and new technologies.