SASKATOON — Reflecting on their experience in the Lay Formation program, three recent graduates expressed thanksgiving for blessings of community and faith enrichment.
Thirteen participants from the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon and 16 from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon were recently blessed, anointed and sent forth by Bishops Bryan Bayda and Donald Bolen in celebrations June 6 and 7 in Saskatoon (see related article).
Lay Formation includes a diocesan Latin-rite stream, an eparchial Byzantine-rite stream and an Aboriginal Catholic stream. The three groups spend time together in formation, in prayer and as a community, as well as gathering in their individual streams, focusing on their own traditions and spirituality. The goal is for adult Catholics to deepen their baptismal commitment to the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ, through formation and faith education.
“One of the things that I realized over the past two years was how much I needed to know and how much I wanted to know,” said Iris Owchar, an eparchial Lay Formation graduate from St George Church in Saskatoon.
“The more I came, the more I looked forward to coming,” she said of the Lay Formation program, which is offered as a live-in experience in Saskatoon, held one weekend a month from September to June over two years.
“We could come here and just rest in the arms of the Lord,” she said. “I felt this incredible warmth and encirclement, and the Holy Spirit moving through me. It’s been a wonderful experience.”
Learning, prayer and community life are all part of the transformative experience of Lay Formation.
One thing that Iris says she has come away with is a sense of peace, and a conviction that the Lord is with her, even in the challenges and difficulties. “Now I’ve got this calm sort of resolve . . . nothing is too big, too momentous,” she said.
“I’ve grown in my faith, I certainly pray more.... I think I learned that: every moment of every day is a prayer, and you can thank God for that moment, at that time — you don’t have to wait until the end of the day to do it.”
As a result of her Lay Formation experience, Iris says she has a new confidence, which has her watching out for where she can best serve God and others. She is also more comfortable in sharing faith and trying to offer a quiet example to her grown children.
Gerard and Lynn Onushko, parishioners at the Cathedral of the Holy Family who have been married for 36 years, joined the Lay Formation program at the invitation of fellow parishioner and program co-ordinator Mona Goodman.
Gerard had a strong desire to undertake the faith enrichment program as a couple. “I said to Lynn, ‘I’m not taking it without you. I don’t want to go behind or ahead of you, separately; I want us to go together’ — and it’s been beautiful.”
At first Lynn struggled with the program, finding herself uncertain about the unknowns. Persevering through the first weekends, she found herself relaxing and building connections with others in the program, and recognizing the hand of God in all that was happening.
Gerard, who grew up in the Ukrainian Catholic Church, was delighted that he shared his diocesan Lay Formation journey with the stream from the Eparchy of Saskatoon. “It was an amazing journey, it brought back a lot of memories and a lot of tears,” he said. “When they weren’t with us, when we had our separate sessions, I really missed them.”
Lynn joined the Catholic Church as an adult, taking part in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, and Lay Formation was another step in her faith journey.
She was inspired by the dedication and commitment of those undertaking the program, especially among those who travel hours each month to get there. Her own faith has moved beyond Sunday mass, Lynn said.
“It’s a big commitment, two years, one weekend a month. But if you are on a lifelong journey with the Lord, this is a small commitment,” said Gerard. Thinking of it as 20 weekends rather than two years helps in tackling the commitment, said Lynn.
The Onushkos stressed the excellence of the presenters, facilitators and educators who help to lead the program and who provided a “wealth of knowledge.”
As for anyone who might be thinking of Lay Formation, but hesitating, Gerard has this advice: “Go in faith, just go. You will not be sorry.”