Faith formation ripe for change, says expert

Jennifer Zoeller, left, director of faith formation at Holy Family Church, discussed what she gained from the Loyola Institute for Ministry program at a meeting with the program’s director, Dr. Tracey Lamont, right. Lamont visited Louisville this week to meet with catechists and discuss catechesis. (Record Photo by Marnie McAllister)

Dr. Tracey Lamont, whose career is dedicated to teaching others to teach religion, believes parish faith formation needs — and is ready for — change.

After the pandemic, “people wanted us to slingshot back to normal,” said Lamont, director of the New Orleans-based Loyola Institute for Ministry, during a visit to Louisville early this week. “But it wasn’t working before. People were leaving the church.”

It’s time now to listen, build relationships and innovate, she said during an interview.

“We’re ripe for synodality, to put people before programs,” she said, encouraging parish faith formation teams to be “radically open to the Spirit, asking, ‘What wasn’t working?’ ”

“Listening is hard,” she said, noting that’s particularly true when a program you created faces criticism. “But we can do it with charity and love.”

Lamont served as the keynote speaker at the Archdiocese of Louisville’s annual Faith Formation Celebration Sept. 19 at the Flaget Center. The event recognized more than 70 catechists and others who have completed advanced formation. 

Among those recognized are seven people who completed certificates through the Loyola Institute for Ministry Extension program, known as LIMEX. Lamont met with LIMEX alumni on Sept. 18.

In an interview at that gathering, Lamont noted that putting people before programs means developing relationships with “our people” in parishes.

“We’ve got to try to open ourselves to each other,” she said. “We have to know each other, we have to form meaningful relationships with our people. Because that’s why they stay.”

She noted that relationships — and even simple human connections — are harder to come by lately, particularly for young people.

“We’re really getting disconnected with other humans,” she said, adding that mental health problems among youth seem to be a consequence of such disconnection.

“They don’t feel seen or known for who they are, like no one would care if they were gone,” she said. “They feel that from their parents, too. I think our parishes can help with that. We aren’t counselors, but we can be there, we can listen.”

At the heart of any change, she said, is putting people first.

“The more we focus on people, the more our programs will be responsive to their needs,” she said. 

While there are challenges, she believes hope is abundant. 

“This year I’m hearing people ready to innovate and get creative. That gives me hope,” she said. “Those who are doing this — they’re getting tremendous energy from it.”

Art Turner, the director of the Office of Faith Formation for the Archdiocese of Louisville, said the LIMEX program and the local Archdiocese of Louisville Ministry Institute aim to offer catechists the tools they need to meet the needs of parishioners of all ages.

Dr. Tracey Lamont, director of the Loyola Institute for Ministry spoke to alumni of the program Sept. 18 at the Maloney Center. She visited Louisville this week to meet with catechists and discuss catechesis. (Record Photo by Marnie McAllister)

“Some say they only went to Catholic school through eighth grade or high school,” he noted. “This is a deeper dive into theology.”

During the Sept. 19 event, two catechists were honored for devoting their lives to catechesis, receiving the Roncalli Award

The award, the highest the office presents to individuals, is named for St. John XXIII (Cardinal Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli). It recognizes “catechists who have been ignited by the spirit of Vatican II to spread the faith through catechesis,” according to the office. 

The recipients are Annette Bergamini and Debbie Minton.

Seven people earned a certificate in theology and ministry from the Loyola Institute for Ministry. They are Elizabeth Freeman, Dawn Heuglin, Kathy Holderbaum, Lynn McDaniel, Paula Silliman, Tim Tallent and Doug Wolz.

Nine people earned RCIA coordinator training certificates. They are Kathleen  Abell, Sharon Bidwell, Karin Coll, Patricia Garlitz, Gina Garrett, Elihazar Hinojosa, Maria Hinojosa, Irma Ortuno and Steve Tedder.

Thirty-nine catechists who have completed 20 hours of formation classes were named associate catechists.

Nine catechists who have completed the associate level plus 120 hours of formation were named advanced catechists. They are Susan Ashby, Charlotte Colley, Rachel Fenwick, Andrea Hoback, Brigid Manion, Schuhmann  Montgomery, Carey Ogburn, Jessica Smith and Angela Young.
Twelve people who completed the advanced level plus 80 hours were named master catechists. They are: Sharon  Bidwell, Tina Chaput, Jan Clan, Donna Edwards, Beth Freeman, Pat Garlitz, Suzanne Geiger, Angela Poole, Teresa Roberts, Paula Silliman, Tim Tallent and Robert Wheatley.

Marnie McAllister
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Marnie McAllister
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