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July 7, 2004
Greetings and welcome to Faith Formation Update, a free monthly e-newsletter for catechetical leaders with a focus on parish catechesis beyond textbooks and classrooms. I'm Judith Dunlap. In each issue I offer a brief starter and my "Every Family" column. My co-worker and fellow religious educator Joan McKamey offers video resources and ideas in her "Seen and Heard" column. Our co-worker Chuck Blankenship suggests other faith formation resources for adults from St. Anthony Messenger Press in his column, "Sowing Sampler." Finally, we encourage YOU to share views and program ideas about this month's topic on our online bulletin board, "Faith Formation Forum." Blessings on your work!
—Judith Dunlap

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July: Time for Some R & R
For many catechetical leaders July is an in-between month. If all has gone well you've managed to clean up the loose ends of last year's programs and events and are able to take a few weeks for some R & R before you get on with next year's activities. Time for "relaxing and regrouping" if you are part-time or on a 10-month contract, or "refocusing and recreating" if you work year 'round and are on a 12-month contract. In either case, July is the perfect month to spend some time reading or listening to a good book.
Last year, I talked about how much I enjoy audio books. They are great for long car rides or for quiet listening while you go for a walk or soak up the sun. Check out your local library for some great fiction or nonfiction listening. Our library offers mysteries, novels and the classics as well as biographies, histories and self-help books. If you are interested in doing some reading for professional or spiritual growth, you might also go online to and see what St. Anthony Messenger Press has to offer. I just finished listening to The Seven Secrets of Successful Catholics.
This short book written by Paul Wilkes was published by Paulist Press. The two-tape (approximately 2 ˝ hour) audio book is unabridged and read by the author. It is very easy to listen to and practical to apply. Several approaches are offered after every chapter to apply the information. In the section, "Further Thought and Action," the reader/listener, is presented with a reflection, a "Just Imagine…" section, "Words to Ponder," questions for reflection or discussion, a prayer and suggestions for incorporating or deepening the "Secret" in your own life.
Some of the "secrets" are probably not so secret. For example: Successful Catholics believe in prayer and pray regularly, and successful Catholics are members of a faith community. But some of Wilkes' "secrets" are less predictable. Number three on his list is: Successful Catholics rely on their conscience and good judgment—but never alone. (Click here to listen to a portion of this section.)
Consider reading or listening to Wilkes' ideas this summer. Reflect on them for your own personal spiritual growth, and then consider suggesting the book for small groups to read or listen to in your parish. In either case, you will have spent a relatively short period of your R & R time "productively," leaving more time for the really important job of just plain relaxing and refocusing.
Finding Jesus on Your Summer Vacation
If you haven't read the award winning Can You Find… books, you owe it to your children/grandchildren/parish families to do so. They all started with the Can You Find Jesus?: Introducing Your Child to the Gospel book that came out a few years ago. It is sort of a Can You Find Waldo adaptation for young Christians.
Even youngsters who do not read yet can enjoy this book with adult help. In the first part of the book there are 13 "Search" chapters that cover Jesus' life from his birth to his ascension to the last search page, "Jesus Lives in Us."
Youngsters are challenged to find Jesus as well as the same 10 things hidden in each picture (a dove, a cross, a loaf of bread, etc). Some of the pictures also depict modern items—things that were not around in the time of Jesus. The illustrator has also put in a few just plain silly things to keep the adults as well as the children amused. I particularly like the fiddler on the roof in the wedding feast scene. (Click here to see Search 4: Jesus Performs His First Miracle.)
No matter the age of the child, this book was designed to be shared with an adult. The last part of the book is the parent guide, offering ideas and suggestions for using the search pages. Adults are given the Scripture passages relevant to each page as well as information about Jesus to assist them as they read with their youngster. Finally, on the last pages of the book there is a glossary that explains the words used on the search pages that children may not understand.
In the years since Can You Find Jesus was originally published the author, Phillip D. Gallery, and illustrator, Janet L. Harlow, have given us three other books: Can You Find Bible Heroes? Can You Find Followers of Jesus? and Can You Find Saints? The books are recommended for ages 5 to 9, but I've seen a three year old and his grandfather (60+) laughing over the same page.
Video Update on Rest and Relaxation
I'll never forget my first year as a parish Director of Religious Education. Newly married, my husband and I moved into the house that had to that point served as the parish convent. (I later learned that the community of religious sisters who had staffed this parish for generations had shaken the dust from their sandals, deciding to send no more of their members to this feisty community.) Adjusting to married life, establishing new boundaries as the first laywoman to serve the parish as DRE, working to complete my master's degree, learning the ropes of my new position—my plate was pretty full! Then the pastor took ill, leaving me the only paid staff member for a period of six months.
The diocesan association for parish catechetical leaders came to my rescue in the form of a retreat. It happened in March, beginning the day after our parish celebration of Confirmation. It was billed as a personal retreat with some optional community activities. Was it ever what I needed! I allowed myself to really consider the community activities as optional and spent my time sleeping (a lot at first!), reading a Victoria Holt novel, praying, walking in the woods and joining in a few community events.
The retreat only lasted two days, but did it ever make an impression on me! I decided that from then on I would make taking care of myself part of my job. I have succeeded in doing that in varying degrees depending on my work and family situation. My biggest breakthrough is that I no longer feel guilty about the time I take and the efforts I make for self-care.
If you struggle like I have to take care of yourself in the midst of life's demands, the video series Peaceful Journeys may be a help to you this summer. The three programs—Nurturing, Praying and Caring—are presented by Dr. Robert Wicks, a professor in the Graduate Programs in Pastoral Counseling at Loyola College in Maryland. Click here to see a video clip from Nurturing (V3040) (RealMedia | Windows Media).
Use these video programs for your own reflection this summer. You can use them on your own or gather with fellow catechetical leaders or members of your pastoral staff for group sharing. Each program is 25 minutes long—long enough that you'd want to devote a session to each one. Once you've used them this summer, you'll have previewed them for use in the fall within adult faith formation offerings. Catechetical leaders and parish ministers aren't the only ones who need to learn to take care of themselves!
Whatever you do, take care of yourself this summer. Putting yourself on your list of priorities is not selfish—it's necessary. You and your ministry will benefit!
A Time to Renew
The lazy days of summer are here, and many of us are taking the opportunity to step back a little, relax and renew ourselves. As you take the time to sit on the deck, enjoying the breeze and the quiet, why not take a few minutes a day to renew your spirit? How about taking time to get to know a kindred spirit in the faith through a series of Servant Books that invite you to "meet new Catholic saints and spiritual heroes"?
Meet Padre Pio: Beloved Mystic, Miracle Worker and Spiritual Guide will introduce you to the newly canonized St. Pio of Pietrelcina, known for most of the 20th century as Padre Pio, a gruff yet godly Capuchin who was a noted healer and mystic. When he died in 1968, over 100,000 of his "spiritual children" attended his funeral. This book is an outstanding introduction to the life and spirituality of Padre Pio.
The week after Easter the universal Church celebrated "Divine Mercy Sunday," as recently directed by Pope John Paul II. Meet Saint Faustina: Herald of Divine Mercy will introduce you to the visionary whose revelations from God led to the popular Divine Mercy devotion and its accompanying movement. Especially fascinating in this account are excerpts from Faustina’s diary and the beginnings of her mission and her visions.
If ever there was a reluctant saint, Dorothy Day might well fill the bill. A founder of the Catholic Worker movement, she once declared, "Don't call me a saint. I don't want to be dismissed that easily." Still, as her cause for canonization moves forward, her prophetic example remains a provocative challenge to the status quo that cannot easily be dismissed. Meet Dorothy Day: Champion of the Poor explores the connection between her formidable public achievements and her private life of prayer, Scripture study and devotion to the sacraments. A stirring portrait of someone who worked tirelessly to awaken the conscience of a nation.
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