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August 9, 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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Parish Resources for Fall
It’s August, and if you are like me you are trying to hang on to every summer moment that is left. It is such a cliché, but the older I get the quicker the months seem to go by. I dread the early darkness of fall and winter and the uncertainty of snow days. Those of you who live in places of perpetual sunshine must have your own concerns. If not, pray for the rest of us.
Hopefully, the past few long summer days have been enjoyable and productive. They have been for me. It has been a busy summer here at St. Anthony Messenger Press. I’ve spent the last few weeks helping to plan two new newsletters that will be coming out shortly.
We will be putting out a monthly four-pager, Eucharist: Jesus With Us, to help celebrate the year of the Eucharist. It won’t be available until next March, but if you receive our promotional material you should see a preview issue sometime this autumn. We’ll talk more about this offering after January.
You should have already received material about our very latest newsletter, Bringing Home the Word. This two-sided (one sheet) newsletter is a weekly resource centered on the Sunday Scriptures. Meant as a take-home for the folks in the pew and as a practical resource for small groups, it will be available for you beginning this October.
I had the folks involved in RCIA in mind when I sat in on the content meeting for Bringing Home the Word. I know how difficult it can be for novice RCIA team members to “break open the Word” at Sunday morning liturgies. Each issue will have a simple article on the front page relating the Sunday readings to everyday life. The back page will offer, among other things, questions for reflection and discussion, a suggestion for personal response or action and a short prayer that can be said together. (Click here to see Bringing Home the Word Adobe Reader required.)
The small faith-sharing group to which I belong will be using Bringing Home the Word this year. The main article in the newsletter is short enough to read together either out loud or silently. (This means no homework, something that appeals to our busy group.) And the questions for reflection and action section are written with small groups in mind.
Consider ordering a hundred or so copies of Bringing Home the Word for the small groups and RCIA participants in your parish. Better yet, order enough for all of your parishioners. Call 1-800-488-0488, x158.
‘Pete and Repeat’ and the Family Olympics
On the days we got home from school and discovered that St. Anthony Messenger magazine had been delivered, my sisters and I would fight about who would get it first. Truth be told, it wasn’t the articles we were eager to read. It was “Pete and Repeat” that caused the fuss. This two-panel cartoon has been running in the magazine for almost 45 years; it still challenges me. More often than not I have to turn to the answer page to find out one or two of the things that are different in the second picture.
The cartoon/puzzle is part of Susan Hines-Brigger’s two-page “Faith Filled Family” section. Susan writes a lead article every month for this section as well as two sidebars with fun information and ideas for kids and teens. I enjoyed the kid’s idea for the month of July and thought it would be even more fun if we adapted it for a parish family fun day. Susan suggests:
With the start of the Olympics, sports will definitely be the hot topic of conversation. So why not join in the fun and host your own Olympic games? Gather your family, friends, neighbors—anyone who wants to be involved—and engage in some friendly competition.
Form teams and have them compete at any number of events, such as Wiffle ball, jump rope, relay races, balloon toss, etc.
If you want to go all out, have each team decide on a name, and a logo and matching T-shirts. You can also create certificates or medals to be awarded.
Throughout the games, encourage everyone to be models of good sportsmanship.
One parish where I worked held an annual “Family Olympics” day. Each family (sometimes two or three small families together) formed a team. Before we began they each designed its flag. Flags were hung on short sticks around the play area. Each team would pick a member to participate in a game. Sometimes games required more then one player from a team. Games were designed for each age group so that even three year olds had a chance to participate. At the end of an event, the winning team would receive its flag and the tallest member would ceremoniously raise it as the rest of the families hummed the Olympic theme song. What fun!
Video Update on What's New
Remember the scene in It’s A Wonderful Life where the young George Bailey is dishing up ice cream at the soda fountain and bragging about his membership in the National Geographic Society? His membership really means something to him. It is an expression of his passion and dreams of “seeing the world.” It is a part of his identity that he is proud of and wants to share with others. It sets him apart from the other young people in Bedford Falls.
Membership can mean a lot or it can mean little. It depends on the organization and the individual member. I can be a significant contributor, maybe even hold an office, attend every meeting and serve on committees. Or I can come to an occasional meeting but contribute nothing of substance to the group. I must confess to being both kinds of member at times in my life.
Being a disciple is different. Discipleship is a weighty word. When we call ourselves disciples of Jesus, we are saying that we’re more than just members of his fan club. We are committing ourselves to being his pupils—learning about him, learning from him, learning to be like him. Discipleship makes demands of us.
We need only look to the gospels and the Acts of the Apostles to learn from the earliest Christian disciples. We have the saints as models of discipleship through the ages. But what does discipleship look like in today’s Church? And why does discipleship seem to be a new concept to so many 21st-century Catholics?
Sometimes what’s “new” is actually something “old” that’s been rediscovered, repackaged or brought to our attention in a different way. New things are often “radical” in the original sense of the word—foundational, from the root. The freshness comes in that the “new” packaging jars us to consider what we are about. New Beginnings: A New Way of Living as a Catholic is radical—its purpose is to take ordinary Catholics from membership to discipleship.
Paul Wilkes, creator of New Beginnings, spent several years visiting hundreds of parishes across America. He wrote Excellent Catholic Parishes: The Guide to Best Places and Practices (I9928) as a result. New Beginnings is the latest outgrowth of what he learned from these parish visits. It is a three-hour, multimedia curriculum kit to assist parish leaders in making their parish a more happy, holy and welcoming place. It offers tools you can use to transform ordinary members into extraordinary disciples.
Click here (RealMedia | Windows Media) to see a video clip from the bonus documentary that comes with each New Beginnings curriculum kit. The documentary Islands of Hope features four ministry-driven, innovative Catholic and Protestant churches. The clip highlights the Catholic parish of St. Pius X in El Paso, Texas.
New Beginnings can be used anytime you want to introduce your parishioners to the concept of discipleship:
    – with newly baptized Catholics during their mystagogical catechesis;
    – to orient new parishioners to your parish;
    – to encourage members of small Christian communities;
    – for Lenten and Advent seasonal renewal;
    – for ministry and catechist formation.
If your parishioners need to awaken to the call of true discipleship, give New Beginnings a look.
Formed in Prayer
In all the hustle and bustle surrounding the beginning of the new year of faith formation, it’s easy to forget an important element in the formation of catechists: the development of their prayer life. Here are a couple of new titles from Servant Books that might help.
It’s often helpful to remind people that a fruitful prayer life begins with an “inward journey.” Sister Kathryn Hermes, F.S.P., has written a wonderful book to awaken your prayer life. The Journey Within: Prayer As a Path to God focuses on prayer as a journey from loneliness to God. The book offers a series of short reflections on a life of prayer, each followed by a helpful exercise (“Breaking Open Your Life”) that gives you an experience of that aspect of prayer. This is a great little book to be savored, one page at a time, over the course of several weeks.
Another book to savor over time is Father John Hampsch’s Pathways of Trust: 101 Shortcuts to Holiness. There are reflections on trust and how practicing trust leads to a closer relationship with God. Each reflection is about two pages long, providing just enough to dwell on during your daily prayer time. An excellent addition to your daily reading and prayer time.
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