St. Augustine Catholic
How open are you to finding God?
Catholic Schools – Embracing our future
St. Vincent’s Celebrates 90 Years
in this issue... 
editor's notes
saint of the month
bishop's message
from the archives
in the know with Fr. Joe
work life
theology 101
your marriage matters
the parenting journey
spiritual fitness
parish profile
around the diocese
calendar of events

How open are you to finding God?
By Nancy Schertzing

Milagros Delgado-McMahon, director of Adult Faith Formation for Holy Faith Parish in Gainesville, is using RENEW 21 to call adults to a deeper exploration of their faith.

In Luke’s Gospel the risen Jesus appears to two of his friends and walks with them on their journey to Emmaus. Along the way he explains the scriptures and uses their faith to help them make sense of the events of their lives. Though they did not recognize him, the friends beg Jesus to stay for dinner. After he has blessed and broken bread with them, the disciples recognize Christ’s nourishing presence in their midst just as he disappears again. Looking back on their encounter, they marvel at their experience. “They began to tell each other how their hearts had burned within them as he talked with them and explained the scripture during the walk down the road” (Luke 24:32). Inspired, they rush back to share the news with their community and eventually with the world.

The story of the Road to Emmaus also inspired the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for its 1999 statement on adult faith formation. This pastoral plan – Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us – shakes up the church’s traditional, child-centered emphasis on religious education. Recognizing “the transforming power of grace and the truths of faith,” in adult lives, it reorders our faith formation priorities. The bishops say, “Adult faith formation must . . . become the axis around which revolves the catechesis of childhood and adolescence as well as old age” (Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us, no. 5).

As a church dedicated to educating its children and bringing them up in the sacraments, many Catholics resist this reorientation and its call to deeper exploration of our faith. But Cathy Guevarra, director of Religious Education at St. Luke’s Parish in Middleburg, and Milagros Delgado-McMahon, director of Adult Faith Formation for Holy Faith Parish in Gainesville, recognize its value. Both women have embraced the bishops’ pastoral plan and are helping implement it in their parishes
“I believe everyone should be as learned as possible on what they believe,” explains Milagros Delgado-McMahon. “Faith is a gift which is not yours until you accept it. And to really accept it you need to be open, even if a lot of it is mystery.”

Cathy Guevarra agrees. “Many adults recognize a hunger for the fulfillment that only God gives. Often they delight when they find God finding them. Faith formation is about being attentive and open to God’s self-revelation every day in the ordinary moments of life.”

“Sadly, fear and ignorance often keep believers from accepting the invitation to see and experience the world as a place where God is revealed. If they look, they think their search must be “out of this world,” and escaping from it will bring salvation. Yet focused awareness of the indwelling presence of the divine, helps us see that all creation has value in the eyes of the Creator. Jesus – who walked among us, ate with us, laughed and suffered with us – is the starting point. But adult faith formation takes one’s entire lifetime. Falling deeper in love with God and with one’s neighbor never ends.”

Following the bishops’ call, both Holy Faith and St. Luke parishes offer a number of options for adults to grow in faith. Milagros says, “With adults you have to meet them where they are. You don’t lecture to them or prepare the same way you do for children. Instead you have them reflect on their experiences and what you present them. Have them put themselves in the picture and discover Jesus and their relationship with God at that point. They must ask themselves: What is the message? What is it telling me personally? What am I going to do about it?”

“To encourage this,” Milagros explains, “we plan to launch RENEW 21 this fall. We have scheduled spiritual workshops and seminars for every member of a ministry in our parish. We offer scripture study classes based on Scripture from Scratch offered by St. Anthony Messenger Press. Finally, we give adults the same information about sacramental preparation their children receive.”

Cathy weighs in. “The parish is the curriculum according to Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us so everything our parish does is seen as forming faith. We encourage all parishioners in leadership roles to first recognize they are catechists and second to examine and nourish their own faith formation. Offering various versions of a popular devotion such as Stations of the Cross provides lots of opportunities for God to enter people’s consciousness. In addition, our parish is using the Growing Faith Project, a complete and systematic approach to faith building geared toward adults. It is a series of six-page pamphlets on various subjects easily used in small or large groups and individually.”

Cathy continues. “Teaching Catholics how to share their faith is a challenge. Many just want facts or content. Others just want a particular dimension such as prayer. Changing people’s understanding of their faith takes time, patience and lots of love.”

Milagros agrees, but she encourages adults to stick with their efforts. “If they knew the gift that is ours and what’s actually happening, many more would appreciate it. We are celebrating the Paschal mystery. It is the work of the Holy Spirit.”

“I think Jesus didn’t come to teach so much as to show us God,” Cathy concludes. “I think a lot of times people dwell on the laws of the church, but faith formation is so much more! It’s so much about love that when you’re immersed in God’s love you really don’t have to worry about the rules because you’re following them in the natural flow of life. The more you find God finding you, the more you can’t help but share it with others!”

The bishops agree. “[The disciples hearts] were burning because in Jesus they caught a glimpse into the heart of God and found their world made new. In that high point their lives opened from confusion and despair into conviction and hope. They began to grasp the height and depth of God’s mysterious love. What a profound learning experience that must have been!” (Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us, no. 11)

six ways to foster your faith
Princeton Sociologist Robert Wuthnow says religious formation happens when “specific, deliberate religious activities …are firmly intertwined with the daily habits of family routines. Compared with these practices, the formal teachings of religious leaders often pale in significance. Yet when such practices are present, formal teachings also become more important.” He studied many “religious” people and found six common elements central to their faith development.

1. Sitting down to eat together as a family regularly, saying grace before meals, and sharing information about your lives, provide one of the most potent ways of forming children’s faith.

2. Bedtime rituals allow you to introduce prayer naturally to your children. Spend time talking at bedtime and introduce your belief in God’s providence and care, which can accompany them through the night. Invite them to pray about the joys and worries of the day.

3. Having conversations with your children allows your values and character and everyday brand of holiness to come through if you talk (and listen) long enough.

4. Show that people of faith live in your home by keeping a Bible within easy reach, hanging a crucifix on your wall, displaying art that reflects your family values or reading faith-based magazines or newspapers.

5. Celebrate family holiday or faith traditions from your past or research religious holiday practices and adopt them as your own.

6. Participate in a community of faith by making your parish your community too. Sign up at the parish office. Talk to people you meet at church. Participate in ways that appeal to you., a web site operated by the editors of the newsletter, At Home With Our Faith, offers ideas and essays on building and strengthening faith in Catholic homes. An article under Family Spirituality, titled Six Daily Routines to Foster Faith, provided the basis for this sidebar.

– Nancy Schertzing