SASKATOON — Mona Goodman reflected on the history and impact of Lay Formation at her diocesan farewell celebration Sept. 7 at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon.
“Who gets to walk with others in their faith journey? Who gets to learn and be formed and transformed by the people of God? I did,” Goodman said, thanking God for her time journeying with fellow disciples in the Lay Formation program.
A diocesan co-ordinator of the program since 2008, Goodman is moving to Comox, B.C., with her husband, Lyle. For the past month she has been mentoring her successors, Blair and Jennifer Carruthers, who are now sharing the co-ordinator position in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon.
Colleagues, friends and lay formation alumni gathered to bid farewell to Goodman at the event that opened with mass celebrated by diocesan administrator Rev. Kevin McGee, who was joined at the altar by a number of priests from the diocese.
“I think that joy — joyfully giving thanks to the Father — is the hallmark of a Christian,” said McGee. “Someone who has encountered divine mercy; a person who knows the presence of God, who brings us to God, who brings us to freedom. I think this is what Mona has represented.”
Blake Sittler, diocesan director of pastoral services, was the MC for the program that followed, reading messages sent by Archbishop Donald Bolen of Regina and Archbishop Murray Chatlain of Keewatin-Le Pas, thanking Goodman for her service.
The program also included a presentation by retired Lay Formation co-ordinator Kathy Hitchings, who worked with Goodman from 2008 to 2011.
“Mona has been an insightful and visionary leader of the Lay Formation program, a sensitive and gentle spiritual companion to all who come,” said Hitchings. “To know Mona is to share a window into God’s energy flowing through creation. Mona is a mystic for our times, able to connect at the heart with anyone seeking God.”
Bishop Emeritus Gerald Wiesner, OMI, one of the original founders of the program launched in the diocese in 1987, also spoke of Goodman’s contributions, describing her commitment to faith education, to studying theology, to leading the Lay Formation program and completing the Spiritual Direction Formation program.
“Each one of us as baptized persons is to continue the mission and the message of Jesus. Vatican II is strong in its teaching,” he said: “ongoing training is needed on the part of all of us in order that our apostolate be effective. Each individual must be a witness before the world to the resurrection and life of Jesus.”
Goodman reflected on the history of the Lay Formation program and its impact in the diocese: “Over 30 years ago Bishop Gerry Wiesner, Gisele Bauche, Sister Cecile Fahl, and Father Don Hamel came to Bishop Mahoney with a response to Pope John Paul II’s request that the formation of lay people should be among the priorities of every diocese,” she said.
“Their vision and trust in God shaped the Lay Formation program to empower the laity to know and live out their baptismal call as priest, prophet and shepherd king.”
She recalled the gifts shared by previous co-ordinators of the program, which began as a diocesan effort and later branched out to include a Ukrainian Catholic eparchial stream and then an Aboriginal stream in a partnership between the three dioceses of Saskatoon, Prince Albert and Keewatin-Le Pas.
“The previous Lay Formation co-ordinators have been guiding lights on my path,” said Goodman. It was Kathy Hitching’s gentle presence and humble heart that influenced me the most. She fostered the vision of church that was formed from the program’s inception: we are church. Collaboratively, we share our gifts to be God’s church in our homes, our communities and in the world.”
Goodman described how Sisters Pat Lacey and Bonnie Komarnicki weaved the eparchial stream into the Lay Formation program beginning in 1999. “Divine Liturgy, Forgiveness Vespers, the Great Water Blessing, and church traditions gave us an Eastern perspective and we deepened our journey in God together.”
A First Nations/Aboriginal dialogue group was initiated in 2004 and an Aboriginal stream “flowed out of that conversation,” said Goodman. Vivian Whitehawk, Ann Lafleur, Irene Sharp, and Debbie Ledoux were among the co-ordinators of the Aboriginal stream, bringing in the richness of Aboriginal worldviews — “teachings that opened my heart to the Aboriginal people and our beautiful Creator God,” Goodman said.
She also paid tribute to the volunteers — program graduates who shared their love of community, prayer and learning, often over many years. She cited the work of such volunteers as George Rolheiser, who graduated from the program in 1991, and then drove from Cactus Lake for another 20 years of service; or Agnes Pelletier, a 1994 Lay Formation grad, who served for 13 years; as well as present-day volunteers Wayne and Joanne Kysyk, and eparchial stream volunteers Henry Spilchuk, Bob Friesen and Brian Ander.
“Over 900 people have taken the Lay Formation journey, and where are they now? Serving in church communities, diocesan offices, hospitals, schools, prisons, the CWL Clothing Depot, Friendship Inn; they are praying and sharing their faith stories with one another and with others.”
She described the deep friendships that have blossomed through the program. “As people journey together for two years, friendships develop and deepen,” Goodman stressed. “Someone who had a double knee replacement and was living alone felt free to ask if she could move in with someone from her class while she recuperated — someone who had been a stranger two years previously. That’s Lay Formation.”
Goodman also paid tribute to “our presenters, theologians, scholars, Lay Formation grads — the people who share their wisdom and knowledge of God while wrapping it up in life experiences, while we connect to the sacred in our everyday lives.”
She expressed thanks to the bishops and priests of the “for encouraging and supporting your parishioners on their faith journey.” She also thanked Catholic Pastoral Centre staff, and welcomed new diocesan Lay Formation co-ordinators Blair and Jennifer Caruthers, parishioners from Holy Family Cathedral. She concluded by expressing her profound love and gratitude to Lyle, her husband of 31 years, saying, “You are my anchor.”