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Lay Formation celebrates 30 years in diocese

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski


SASKATOON — 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 of Retreat and Renewal. Alumni from across the diocese and beyond were in attendance — including Edward and Delores Ortynski, members of the first class, who travelled from British Columbia for the occasion.

Bishop Emeritus Gerald Wiesner, OMI, concelebrated the eucharist 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 at the request of Bishop James Mahoney. He worked with Sister Cecile Fahl, SMS, Gisele Bauche, and Rev. Don Hamel to develop a 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, said Wiesner, emphasizing the importance of ongoing conversion and formation.

He referenced a talk 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. When we look at 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).

The vocation of 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 — a role that requires formation, training, and support “to share the mission and the message of Jesus.”

The anniversary is a moment to look back and see “what so many have achieved over these past 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,” said Wiesner. “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 mass, Wiesner presented a papal blessing to diocesan co-ordinators Jennifer and Blair Carruthers, who accepted the certificate on behalf all those involved.

The anniversary celebration continued the next day with a 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).

The Lay Formation program was established in 1987 in response to Pope John Paul’s request that the formation of lay people should be among the priorities of every diocese (Christifideles Laici, 57). It 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. The program was created to help lay people “put on the mind and heart of Jesus Christ.” Some 900 people have graduated from the program over the past three decades.

Through the years, the emphasis has remained 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.

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

Lay Formation provides an enriching experience of Christian community as Catholics of many backgrounds journey together, praying, learning and sharing life. Participants engage in daily personal prayer and have opportunities for communal prayer on the weekends that they meet. Participants are introduced to the rich and varied prayer forms that make up the Catholic tradition — including centring prayer, Taizé prayer, Aboriginal prayer, the rosary, praying with icons, 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 can be found in all areas of parish and diocesan life, including parish pastoral leadership teams, diocesan commissions and advisory groups, the RCIA, youth ministry, religious education, pastoral visiting, care of the sick and dying, the preparation of liturgy, funeral vigils, inner-city ministry, restorative justice, and marriage preparation and enrichment.

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