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Faith formation at the heart of renewal


In early August, the Adelaide Archdiocese will launch a major initiative aimed at fostering the life of parishes, communities and schools.

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This initiative features an accessible document – Drawn into the Joy of the Gospel – which will assist our various communities to reflect on the faith formation of their members in a society in which religious faith seems more fragile than in earlier times.

As the document’s title suggests, Pope Francis’s vision of the joy of the gospel is at the heart of this renewal, as is his call to missionary discipleship. Even more importantly, it is the Second Vatican Council’s vision of the Church as the people of God that inspires Pope Francis, as it has inspired the renewal of the Church since the Council. The Council emphasised that the Church is far more than a hierarchical institution. It is firstly the people of God journeying through history towards God. This is a pilgrim and missionary people – people who know God’s mercy as the fundamental truth of their lives and seek to be agents of that mercy in their own unique circumstances. The focus on mission and evangelisation runs right through Drawn into the Joy of the Gospel.

The second half of the document reflects on formation for pastoral ministry. It discusses the formation of a broad range of ministers: educators and school leaders; lay diocesan leaders, chaplains, and pastoral associates; consecrated religious women and men; and deacons and priests. Discussion of each of these ministries is informed by significant, life-giving Vatican documents – for example the 2022 document written by what is now the Dicastery for Culture and Education, The Identity of a Catholic School in a Culture of Dialogue.

Drawn into the Joy of the Gospel is fundamentally a response to the overwhelming number of recommendations from the 2021 Diocesan Assembly about the need for formation in faith across the Archdiocese. Formation was, by far, the number one recommendation from that assembly. In early 2022, the Pastoral Services Team gathered a focus group to consider the issue and propose a response, of which this document is the first step. It was polished by the focus group after broad consultation within the Archdiocese and beyond. Archbishop O’Regan has a deep concern for both faith formation and formation for ministry; he has fostered this project every step of the way. The process for the development of the document is strong evidence of a synodal culture in the Archdiocese. The establishment of an Archdiocesan Formation Council is envisaged in the near future.

So, Drawn into the Joy of the Gospel cannot be an end in itself. It will be accompanied by a ‘workbook’ to assist communal reflection, and parishes and communities will be supported by members of the Pastoral Services Team, including Sarah Moffatt and Peter Bierer. But the real success of the initiative will be found in the many ways that parish councils, school boards and staff, and the many groups across the Archdiocese see Drawn into the Joy of the Gospel as a ‘jumping off point’ for prayer, reflection, missionary discipleship, and evangelisation in their own locales.

James McEvoy is a priest of the Archdiocese, and teaches theology at Australian Catholic University, Adelaide

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