Formation Part I – Preparing Our Young People?
People often ask, “What are we doing with our young people? How are we preparing them for the future in our church?”
In many of my talks and presentations I have spoken about the idea of individual and parish “formation.” Formation is what it means to be a follower of Christ. Formation is a life-approach. It is different than merely “religious education” which was the model in the church for so many years. Formation is using God’s grace, received through the Church and especially through the sacraments to “become perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
Several years ago, St. Monica distributed a book by Matthew Kelly entitled, Rediscovering Catholicism. (Full disclosure: Some question Kelly’s insights and approach (See article here) but, at the risk of advocating for a “cult of personality”, his ministry does seem to be producing fruit). For the passage from Matthew, Kelly substitutes his own phrase, “Becoming the best version of yourself.” In other words, formation means identifying the gifts/talents/charisms that God has given you, develop them as much as you can with the help of God’s grace, then discern how God wishes to use those gifts/talents/charisms – and you- in a way to further the kingdom.
This idea is what we are trying to develop in the lives of our young people. It helps answer BIG questions such as:
- Origin – where did I come from?
- Meaning / Mission – Why am I here? What is the purpose of my life?
- Morality – How do I live well?
- Destiny – What happens when I die?
And so, “formation“ includes paying attention to the following in your life:
- Individual Prayer
- Community Prayer (Small Groups Faith Sharing and Catechesis)
- Community Worship (Participation in the Sacraments & Mass)
- Catechesis/Religious Education
- Spiritual Direction
- Personal Guidance/Mentoring/Coaching
- Individual Leisure
- Group Socials
- Service & Pastoral Outreach
What has impressed me recently is the steps that adult parishioners at St. Monica are taking to address, not just religious education, but several areas of formation for our young people. Often people are not, or are just barely, aware of what is going on with our young people. This week I would like to include some reflections from several adults who have been helping with sacramental preparation, spiritual guidance, service projects and individual and group leisure.
On March 7th, I had the pleasure of being a parent volunteer for this year’s St. Monica First Holy Communion Retreat. My daughter, Katie, and I joined all of the First Communicants at the Malvern Retreat House for a day of learning, prayer, reflection and fun. Myself and the other parent volunteers assisted the children in a variety of activities all designed to deepen their knowledge and appreciation of this very special sacrament. The Malvern Retreat House proved to be a beautiful and prayerful setting for this special day. I believe that the First Holy Communion Retreat was a wonderful and memorable experience for our Parish children as they prepare to receive Jesus for the first time this spring.
The children preparing for First Holy Communion loved being at the Malvern Retreat House for their retreat! I think the sheer size and beauty of its campus reinforced to the children the significance of the sacrament they are about to receive.
I spent the morning crafting rosaries with the children. As we made the rosaries, we discussed the significance of this beautiful devotion to Mary. They learned about the order of the prayers in the rosary and the relation between these decades and the mysteries, or “stories,” they represent. I think you would be proud of your fellow parishioners’ rosary trivia knowledge!
Confirmation Retreat Reflection
Thank you for the privilege of being able to attend Saint Monica’s Confirmation retreat today. It was truly a pleasure. JP Kasperowicz was so engaging with the children. Through his energetic and interactive style he was able to convey this important step in their faith journey while keeping their interest. He stated, “Confirmation would be a life changing event” and challenged them by asking “why are you doing this if you are not going to let it change your life”? He combined real life stories with skits and music. Explained his 5 simple Rules: 1. Fun (let go of yourself and enjoy), 2. Prayer (having a conversation with God), 3. Bible (you can’t hear God talking to you if you don’t read it), 4. Honesty 5. Respect (“be real”). My favorite activity was when he tied into the First Commandment by breaking the kids into groups and asked each group to graffiti posters with “the things” that keep them from putting God first. After they had completed the posters he went around and read everything written. He then concluded with what I found most touching. He asked the children to close their eyes and examine their hearts as he played a song. If they were only wanting to be confirmed so they could end CCD and weren’t even sure God existed or maybe they believed he did but were angry with him he said that’s fine, he only asked that they get up and walk across the hall to the chapel and kneel down and look up at the crucifix, to talk to God in their heads and tell him they were angry or confused or just plain didn’t want to be there, God wants to hear it. If there were some among them who wanted to make a firm commitment to put God first he asked them to rip a piece of the poster before going into the chapel. By the end of the song every child had made their way to the chapel.
LTP Reflection– Father-Son Lenten Retreat and Midnight Run to Philadelphia
Last Saturday, I was blessed to spend the day with my third and fifth grade sons at the Leadership Training Program being held at SMC. The day was coordinated by a core group of LTP mother volunteers and the day’s activities were run by a Priest and Brothers of the Legionaries of Christ in Newtown Square. There were two sessions that day. The third and fourth grade boys started the day in Prayer at the Grotto and moved into the Sanctuary for an age appropriate Gospel lesson. The Brothers were smart, and awarded a St. Francis Medal blessed by Pope Francis to the boy that paid the most attention. Afterwards, we moved onto the SMC Rec Center for Donuts and to create thoughtful cards for the homeless we would be seeing that evening. When finished, the boys packed brown bag meals that would be handed out that evening to the homeless in Love Park. The boys packed the meals with such love it was an amazing thing to witness. We ended the first LPT session with a good old fashioned game of Dodge Ball, where the boys challenged the dads and Brothers.
The second session, fifth grade and up, was the “Midnight Run” to feed the homeless in Center City Philadelphia. After loading a school bus full of food, the older LPT group, boarded the bus and headed towards Philadelphia. Again, this session started in Prayer as the boys lead us in a decade of the Rosary. When we arrived in Center City, the older LPT boys were split into two groups so that we could feed two separate homeless shelters of men. While in the homeless shelter, the boys feed each man a hearty meal of Lasagna, salad, lemonade and afterwards desert. Most importantly, the boys actually sat down with the homeless and broke bread, had genuine conversations, and played games such as dominos. Here again, it was amazing to see the joy the LTP boys were bringing to the faces of the homeless. Next we jumped back on the bus and headed to Mass at St. Augustine’s Church. Before the Mass started the boys were given a history lesson about the historic Church & surrounding neighborhood by one of the Priests in the Rectory. Then, the boys were given the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Since we were the only group in the Church that evening, Mass seemed very intimate. You could have heard a pin drop throughout the Mass. The only times some of the boys spoke is when they were reading the Scriptures. After Mass, we all jumped back on the bus and were dropped off at Love Park to hand out the brown bag meals and some clothing items to the homeless. We walked around Center City for about an hour and handed out these items to every homeless person we saw. The boys took this task very responsibly and wanted to help. The homeless were so thankful for our food/clothing and when they received a package they almost always quickly replied back with a “God Bless” thank you so much. After we ran out of food/clothing, we made our way over to the Art Museum where the boys raced each other up the steps and had group photo taken in front of the Rocky Statue. The boys had a blast! The capstone of the evening was when we got back towards home and the boys got the chance to eat a midnight meal at Minella’s Dinner. Everyone had worked up an appetite and had fun looking back on the evening in the relaxed atmosphere and talks were already underway about making the Midnight Run for 2015. Come out and join us next year.
– Matt Baker (Jay and Nate’s Dad)
Come See for yourself! Check out the 2014 LTP – Father-Son Lenten Retreat and Midnight Run VIDEO
Patellen Corr made http://vimeo.com/89971865