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January 24, 2017, Detroit – Through her recent book, Deepening Faith: Adult Faith Formation in the Parish (Liturgical Press, 2017), Adrian Dominican Sister Janet Schaeffler, OP, hopes to help parishes in a vital area of ministry: the faith formation of adult Catholics.
In a telephone interview, Sister Janet said that the book’s aim is to address the hunger for deeper spirituality and faith formation. “A lot of people in the pews want more,” she said. “They know they need to keep growing in their faith,” but in many cases, parishes put more resources into faith formation for the children.
Deepening Faith is written for parish staff members and parishioners serving on their parish council, education commission, or adult faith formation committee. “The aim is to help parish staff and people in leadership positions in the parish plan for a vibrant adult faith formation in their parish,” Sister Janet explained.
Chapters define adult faith formation, help parishes to lay the foundation and build their programming, offer motivation for starting a program for adult Catholics, and discuss the differences between children and adults in faith formation.
A section called “Hands-on Help,” follows each chapter and offers parish leaders “concrete suggestions and ideas about what we talked about in that chapter,” Sister Janet said. Resources and a set of discussion starters are also provided to help parish leaders relate the material to their own parish.
The central message of the book, Sister Janet said, is the need for adult Catholics today to be more deeply grounded in their faith. “If we as Catholic Christians today are going to make a difference in the world and if we’re going to connect faith with our everyday life, there have to be ongoing opportunities for Catholics to explore and more deeply understand their faith and their life experiences in light of their faith.”
Sister Janet noted a diversity among Catholic adults: some hunger for greater depth in their faith formation, some remain busy in other areas of their lives and don’t see the need to grow in their faith, and others already have a deep faith but long for more.
Years ago, as a Church, Catholics might have gotten the message that all they need is 12 years in Catholic school or in religious education. “There’s nothing further from the truth,” Sister Janet said. But because some Catholics have gotten that message, parish leaders need to reach out to adult Catholics and motivate them to grow in their faith.
The needs for adult faith formation have not changed over the years, but they have intensified, Sister Janet believes. “We’re in a consumeristic society, so parishioners pick and choose what’s going to help them. We haven’t helped people to realize the place of faith and spirituality in their lives, so they’re picking and choosing and going other places.”
At the same time, in the retreats, parish missions, and workshops that Sister Janet has conducted over the years, she has encountered numerous Catholics who are strong in their faith but still want more.
“Their experiences of God are phenomenal,” she said. “Walking with them, listening to them, has helped me and made me more committed to the need to provide places for people in our parishes to talk about their God experiences. I think parishes need to be more proactive in providing safe and comfortable places for people to keep growing, to question, to talk about their experiences.”
In writing Deepening Faith, Sister Janet has drawn on her years of experience in adult faith formation, both at the diocesan and at the parish level, as well as in her workshops and retreats.
Sister Janet has written several other books, including numerous Advent reflection booklets for Twenty-third Publications and books on adult faith formation and for Catholic families and children. Most recently, she wrote Hope: An Anchor in Today’s World (Liturgical Press) and Teaching Kids to Care: Reflections, Activities, and Prayers on Practicing Virtues (Twenty-third Publications).