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Celebrating 30 years of Lay Formation -- some 900 graduates have deepened their relationship with God through two years of prayer, community and learning

Bishop Emeritus Gerald Wiesner, OMI, presented a papal blessing upon the Lay Formation program and its participants during a 30th anniversary celebration Oct. 20 at Queen’s House in Saskatoon. Diocesan coordinators Blair and Jennifer Carruthers accepted the certificate on behalf of the program, which was launched in 1987 in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, and now includes a Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon stream, as well as an Aboriginal stream that includes the dioceses of Saskatoon, Prince Albert, and Keewatin-Le Pas.

Lay Formation celebrates 30 years in diocese of Saskatoon

 

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski

 

Thirty years of Lay Formation and its impact in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon was marked Oct. 20 with a celebration at Queen’s House.

Alumni from across the diocese and beyond were among those in attendance – including Edward and Delores Ortynski, members of the very first Lay Formation class, who travelled from British Columbia for the celebration.

Bishop Emeritus Gerald Wiesner presided at the 30th anniversary Eucharist, along with Diocesan Administrator Rev. Kevin McGee and Rev. Ivan Nahachewsky of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon.

Wiesner was part of the team that originally developed the Lay Formation program in the diocese of Saskatoon at the request of Bishop James Mahoney. He worked with Sr. Cecile Fahl, SMS, Gisele Bauche, and Rev. Don Hamel to develop the program, grounded in prayer, learning and Christian community.

As with any relationship, our relationship with God requires commitment and ongoing connection, and needs to be cared for an intensified, said Wiesner, emphasizing the importance of the process of ongoing conversion and formation to deepen our faith.

He quoted a talk that Pope Francis recently gave to priests. “He told us that one of the things that is most important is to be constantly deepening your life of faith, your relationship with God,” Wiesner related.

“When we look at the teachings of the Church, the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, the Church reminds us that the ‘followers of Christ must hold onto and perfect in their lives that holiness which they have received from God’ (Lumen Gentium, 40),” he said. “Must hold onto and protect. Not just it would be nice … it says must.”

The Christian vocation of all the baptized is a “vocation to the apostolate,” said Wiesner, stressing the importance of each baptized person taking up their role as a missionary disciple of Jesus Christ. That is a role that requires formation, training and support “to share the mission and the message of Jesus.”

“We have that duty, to work hard to acquire a deeper knowledge of revealed truth,” he said, adding that is a process that never ends or is achieved during our life on earth. “We are called to respond in faith to that unconditional love of God.”

The 30th anniversary of Lay Formation is a moment to look back and see “what so many have achieved over these last 30 years – God’s promises have become much clearer to us. We understand more fully the covenant God has entered into with us, that intimate bond of love, God’s fidelity,” said Wiesner, expressing thanksgiving to God for all that has unfolded through the Lay Formation program, and for all the leaders and participants over the years. “When we look back we see much more clearly the privilege and the responsibility that are ours in promoting God’s Kingdom…. It is all God’s gift to us.”

At the conclusion of the Mass, Wiesner presented a certificate of a papal blessing of the Lay Formation program and its participants by Pope Francis to diocesan coordinators Jennifer and Blair Carruthers, to share with all those involved in Lay Formation.

The anniversary celebration continued the next day with a Lay Formation Alumni gathering at the Cathedral of the Holy Family: a day of reflection led by Rev. Michael Dechant, OMI (see related article by Teresa Bodnar-Hiebert).

Launched in the fall of 1987, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon’s Lay Formation program was part of the diocesan response to St. Pope John Paul’s request that the formation of lay people should be among the priorities of every diocese (Christifideles Laici, 57).

Lay Formation was established to help adult Catholics fulfill their baptismal commitment to the mission and ministry of Jesus through a process of formation and faith education. The program was created to help lay people to “put on the mind and heart of Jesus Christ.” Some 900 people have graduated from the program over the past three decades.

The program is two years in duration, with participants meeting for one live-in weekend a month for ten months from September to June in the pastoral setting of Queen’s House.

In the diocese of Saskatoon, Lay Formation is funded through the Bishop’s Annual Appeal as well as through participant fees, usually shared equally between the participant and their parish.

Through the years, the emphasis of Lay Formation has remained solidly on formation rather than specific ministry training. This “formation focus” enriches the faith of all participants who come to the program, while still providing the impetus to move on to more in-depth ministry training for those who desire it.

In the fall of 1999, participants from the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon joined with participants from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon in the first experience of a shared formation program. Roman Catholic and Ukrainian Catholic perspectives were woven together into a program that celebrates the gift of diversity that enriches the common Catholic faith of both streams.

Based on the success and the model of the shared diocesan-eparchial program, Lay Formation was expanded to include an Aboriginal Stream in fall 2007. Bishops of Prince Albert, Keewatin-LePas, and Saskatoon have worked together to provide the program for Aboriginal Catholics from each of their three dioceses.

Roman Catholics – Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal – as well as Ukrainian Catholics, now study common topics together while also meeting as separate streams to explore faith and spirituality in the context of their own traditions and cultures.

Lay Formation is marked by the involvement of highly qualified presenters from Saskatoon and across Canada, who bring a broad spectrum of theological thought to the learning component of Lay Formation. Areas of study include scripture, theology, morality, liturgy, spirituality, justice and peace, as well as Church history, Vatican II, Christology, ecclesiology, sacraments, Church traditions, ecumenism, Catechism of the Catholic Church, Catholic social teaching, Canon Law and Mary.

The three Lay Formation streams also explore Aboriginal spirituality, the medicine wheel, Aboriginal worldview/treaties, the healing journey, images of God, contemporary spirituality, spiritual pastoral care, youth ministry, stages of faith, adult learning styles, collaborative ministry, and spiritual direction.

Lay Formation also provides an enriching experience of Christian community as Catholics of many backgrounds journey together, praying, learning and sharing life.

Deepening a relationship with God through prayer is an essential component of Lay Formation. Participants engage in daily personal prayer and have opportunities for communal prayer on the weekends, including praying of the Liturgy of the Hours. Lay Formation introduces participants to various prayer forms and the varied and rich ways of prayer that are part of the Catholic tradition – including centering prayer, Taizé prayer, Aboriginal prayer, the rosary, praying with icons, and praying with scripture as well as Franciscan, Ignatian, Augustinian, and Thomistic prayer traditions.

A strong Alumni Association has grown out of the Lay Formation program and graduates are found in all areas of parish and diocesan life.

Some of the areas in which Lay Formation graduates provide ministry include parish pastoral leadership teams, diocesan commissions and advisory groups, RCIA, youth ministry, religious education, pastoral visiting, care of the sick and dying, preparation of liturgy, funeral vigils, inner city ministry, restorative justice, marriage preparation and marriage enrichment.

The new diocesan coordinators of Lay Formation are Jennifer and Blair Carruthers (see related article), with Marlene Hansen of Buffalo Narrows coordinating Aboriginal Lay Formation. Eparchial coordinators are Sr. Bonnie Komarnicki, SSMI, and Sr. Marijka Konderwicz, SSMI.

For more information see www.saskatoonrcdiocese.com/layformation

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