WATROUS, Sask. — The powerful spiritual impact of the Lay Formation program was described for CWL members from across the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon at their annual convention May 1 in Watrous.
Co-ordinator Mona Goodman and CWL member Connie McGrath, a graduate of Lay Formation, presented an overview of the diocesan program. Launched in 1987, the 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.
“It was Vatican II’s call to the laity to be church,” noted McGrath. In response to the Holy Father’s call, the diocesan program was established to help adult Catholics fulfil their baptismal commitment to the mission and ministry of Jesus through a process of formation and faith education.
Some 900 people have graduated from the program in Saskatoon over the past three decades.
The program is two years in duration, with participants meeting one weekend a month for 10 months from September to June. Queen’s House of Retreat and Renewal provides a beautiful and prayerful setting for the participants, said McGrath.
“The Lay Formation program is not ministry training. It is a journey that fosters deep, spiritual transformation. It is designed to awaken, enrich and deepen our faith,” she said.
“You grow in faith, deepen your spiritual life, understand the Gospel, expand your heart, mind and soul, and develop lifelong friendships,” she said. “I loved the lectures by top-calibre speakers who explained the history and teachings of the church and the Bible. I developed a deep respect for the huge organization of the universal Catholic Church.”
Lay Formation provides an enriching experience of Christian community as Catholics of many backgrounds journey together, praying, learning and sharing life, McGrath described.
Lay Formation is a shared experience, with three streams: Diocesan, Eparchial and Aboriginal, she noted.
In 1999, participants from the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon joined participants from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon in the first experience of a shared formation program. Based on the success and the model of the shared diocesan/eparchial program, Lay Formation was expanded to include an Aboriginal Stream in 2007. Prince Albert, Keewatin-Le Pas and Saskatoon dioceses work together to provide the program for Aboriginal Catholics at Queen’s House.
Roman Catholics — Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal — as well as Ukrainian Catholics, study common topics together while also meeting as separate streams to explore faith and spirituality in the context of their own traditions and cultures.
“And there is lots of fellowship, lots of breaking bread together,” McGrath said, stressing how participants are all on the same spiritual journey.
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, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Catholic social teaching, Canon Law and Mary. Participants 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.
Deepening a relationship with God through prayer is an essential component of Lay Formation. Participants engage in daily personal prayer and have many opportunities for communal prayer. The Liturgy of the Hours is said morning and evening, and the liturgical seasons are celebrated with special liturgies. The Lay Formation weekend concludes with the eucharist. Participants prepare and provide the lay liturgical ministries for the eucharist, and lead the Liturgy of the Hours and other prayer services.
Lay Formation introduces participants to various prayer forms and the varied and rich ways of prayer that are part of the Catholic tradition — including centreing prayer, Taizé prayer, Aboriginal prayer, the rosary, praying with icons, and praying with Scripture as well as Franciscan, Ignatian, Augustinian, and Thomistic prayer traditions.
Goodman described how the Bishop’s Annual Appeal pays for half the cost of the program, with each participant and their home parish splitting the other half. Bursaries are also available through the CWL and for teachers through Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools.
Registration is underway for September 2017, when a new session begins for all three streams: Diocesan, Eparchial and Aboriginal. For more information contact Goodman at firstname.lastname@example.org or (306) 659-5846 .