Our Faith Formation Team here at St. John Parish is a robust and dedicated bunch, with Clare DeWitt, Angela Koerkel, St. John School, Religious Education Catechists (“catechist” is a churchy word that means religion teacher!), Joseph Gruber with FOCUS, those who teach Children’s Liturgy of the Word (CLOW), and many other volunteers. In the seven years that I have been here, we’ve cast vision and set goals for each year, making minor changes, tweaks, and attempts from one year to the next to bear more fruitfulness and deeper faith among disciples. One of the best things we implemented this last year was “Check-In” conversations with every child and family preparing for sacraments, and meeting families individually for First Reconciliation times.

We’ve been guided by the vision of our Good Pastor, Fr. Chas, and a few of his influencers. We’ve done site visits with Fr. John Ricardo’s staff when he was Pastor at Our Lady of Good Counsel in the Detroit Archdiocese. We’ve read the books and attended seminars from Fr. James Mallon’s Divine Renovation and Fr. Michael White’s Rebuilt. We’ve had touchpoints with Amazing Parish, FOCUS, Forming Intentional Disciples, Dynamic Catholic, Whole Family Catechesis, Franciscan University of Steubenville Conferences, Evangelical Catholic, as well as long conversations with our peers serving in other parishes. And if I didn’t already hint at it, we have soaked this whole ministry in many long hours of prayer.

We believe the Lord is telling us there has been enough time thinking, tinkering, and praying; it’s time to put it into His hands. There are two main guiding principles that are leading us. One is that SACRAMENTS MUST BE PRECEDED BY EVANGELIZING, FAITH, AND CONVERSION! (CCC 1072) The second is that the SUNDAY MASS IS THE CLASS. As the source and summit of the Christian life (CCC 1324), everything should point toward and flow out of the Eucharist; that is where Jesus himself teaches and feeds us. Anything that we do is secondary to Holy Communion.

We are being led to operate smarter, wiser, more prudently, with more focus on prayer and real one-on-one conversations with our families. Weekly “Sunday School” Religious Education classes will look a lot more like simply “going to Mass” with our teaching times built in and around the Mass itself. We don’t want to pile on mandates and be heavyhanded, and since the attendance of Sunday Mass is a weekly necessity for Catholics, this makes the time commitment a tangible reality for families. Again, the Mass IS THE CLASS. The plan is to raise the bar on our weekly Children’s Liturgy of the Word (CLOW) where we take the younger students out for an age-appropriate look at the Gospel, Creed, and prayer. We will supplement that time in the Mass with a short “Gathered Assembly” between the 10 a.m. and Noon Masses, starting approximately 11:15, with more learning, silly songs, and community building. Once a month we will host a Whole Family Mini-Retreat Day. The First Reconciliation, First Holy Eucharist, and Confirmation preparation times will all directly flow FROM or flow TOWARD one of our Mass times. All of this will take place at the Community Center. Another huge advantage is that families are more easily able to join in for the K of C Breakfasts and other special events on the weekends. Not only will we actually end up with MORE contact time with students, we will be attending Mass! Community-building and the supernatural Grace from the Word and the Eucharist will be the natural fruit of this time together.

The icing on this beautiful cake is that all of this (Children’s Liturgy of the Word, Family Retreats, weekly Gather Time, Sacramental preparation) is for everyone: public school, Catholic school, and homeschool families are all invited to participate in living, learning, and going deeper together through these opportunities. This is a win/win all the way around! There are a lot of details we will convey later. Surely, it will be messy, there will be space and schedule conflicts. And in it all, we are being led. Our role is to follow with expectant faith!

I’d like to share what the Lord said to me in the Adoration Chapel a few months ago…my pen was just jotting down words as fast as possible, and all this seemed to come from outside of me: “All your time and energy should go to My people who have chosen Me. Give Me your heart. Give Me your time. Let Me lead you… I want them ALL. Seek those who seek Me. Go after the ones that are going after Me. Strengthen those who have strength in Me. Unite the remnant as the hot coals together who keep the truth burning inside no matter what happens outside.” I don’t know about you, but I want to be part of that uniting and strengthening. In the not-so-distant future, we will be addressing the wider parish with some opportunities to help serve on this mission. I can’t wait to see God’s hand in all this!

Todd Gale

Director of Faith Formation