BY BISHOP LOUIS F. KIHNEMAN III Bishop of Biloxi
This article (Part 4 on the Eucharistic Revival, The Year of the Parish) we focus on Robust Faith Formation. One of the things we can do to help Christians
“discover anew the sense of wonder and awe at the Lord’s great gift of himself”
(Pope Francis) is to provide robust opportunities for faith formation. The two most common programs for Faith Formation provided in our parishes and mis-sions are CCD and RCIA/OCIA. All adults are invited to participate in parish RCIA/OCIA programs. It is a wonderful way to refresh your understanding of our faith, to accompany a seeker to learn more about the faith, or to be a sponsor. All our children should take part in CCD if not attending Catholic Schools (many do both!). Within the family is the most important place our children learn the faith, develop a personal relationship with God, and a desire to receive the Eucharist.
A young man who entered the Church at the Easter Vigil shared with me that RCIA helped him to understand what Baptism truly is and said, “Every day of RCIA was a blessing filled with the joy of learning the word of God, and seeing so many people strive to be with Him. It has brought me nothing but joy and excitement to get closer to the Lord.” His sponsor shared that he experienced many blessings in accompanying this young man and witnessing his enthusiasm in learning about the Church and our place in salvation history as a member of the Body of Christ. He was able to help him grow in his relation-ship with God. “An unexpected blessing was being present to witness this young man bringing his grandmother back to the sacraments after being away from the Church for over 20 years!”
If you want to grow in faith, prayerfully consider sharing your faith with young people as a catechist for CCD! Children question everything with hearts that are open to God in a unique way, and they will challenge you to stretch your faith muscles! Experiencing the wonder and awe of God through the eyes of young people and to wit-ness their prayers and love of God is a rich blessing. A grandmother I know told me she was quietly explaining to her four-year old granddaughter to be still, quiet, and watch during the elevation of the Host during the Eucharistic prayer because the priest was holding Jesus in his hands. When going up to receive Holy Communion, the granddaughter asked astonished, “Did you just eat Jesus?” She replied, “Yes, I did! and you will too when you are older.” Our children are so open to faith if we will share it with them. Instead of shushing or demeaning their questions, we should strive to answer with enthusiasm. When we do not know the answer, we should tell them so and make an effort to find out.
In addition to RCIA/OCIA and CCD, there are countless opportunities for faith formation as communities of faith, with-in our families, and as individuals, and a little curiosity can lead you to rekindle the joy of your first encounter with Christ, the excitement when you first felt you faith move from your head to your heart, and the beauty and awe in realizing what Jesus did for you and me on the cross, Save us, Savior of the world, for by your Cross and Resurrection, you have set us free! — freed from the bondage of Sin and Death if we repent follow Jesus!
If you have not heard about The Rescue Project, ask your Deacon! The Rescue Project is presented by Father John Riccardo and his team at ACTS XXIX. Many of our parishes are beginning to offer The Rescue Project to parishioners. I have experienced The Rescue Project with my Senior Evangelization Team, the staff at the Pastoral Center, and with the Deacons and wives on retreat. I have witnessed healing, growth in relationships, and a renewed passion for the Mass and the Gospels. It has proven to be a transformative presentation of salvation his-tory that helps us reacquire a biblical world-view and to know who the enemy is and how to recognize his tactics. Participants from all levels of spirituality have appreciated the experience and grown in faith.
I have heard many positive experiences by pastors and participants in Discipleship Quads. Here are a few testimonies I have received from participants at St. Elizabeth Seton Parish:
and from Ashley Bonney of Most Holy Trinity Parish:
Other faith formation opportunities in many parishes and/or in the diocese include New Wine (next class beginning August 2023), Bible Study, Alpha, The Eucharistic Revival, Acts Retreats, Cursillo Retreats, The 99, Ananias training, and more. If you have participated in these ministries, consider becoming a leader to share with others the impact these ministries have had on your spiritual life.
While formal faith formation is essential for our faith communities, we are each responsible for enriching our faith and the faith of our children and grandchildren and developing a personal relationship with God through frequenting the sacra-ments, praying with His Word in scripture, learning about the lives of the Saints, study, and a myriad of prayer methods and lessons I have shared with you in Missio Nostra, in my homilies, and in my GPC articles over the past 5 years, which are all available on our website: https://biloxidiocese.org/resources.
In addition to the ministries mentioned above, explore the websites for the USCCB, Vatican library/archives, Formed, Word on Fire, and there are apps like Hallow, iBreviary, Laudate, MyParish, podcasts you can listen to anytime such as Bishop Kihneman’s Homilies, Ascension Presents ~ Catechism in a Year, Bible in a Year, Ave Maria Explores, Bishop Barron Sunday Homilies and Daily Reflections, and many, many more! (In other words, we have no excuse for not learning more about our faith!)