Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us: A Pastoral Plan for Adult Faith Formation in the United States (USCCB)

Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us: A Pastoral Plan for Adult Faith Formation in the United States has been around as a guiding document for lifelong, on-going faith formation since 1999. And yet, adult faith formation does still seem to usually take a back-seat to children’s faith formation. Just think of a parish you’re familiar with…what percentage of kids participate in formation? What percentage of adults? 

Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us isn’t anything radical. It names the ways and means faith formation for adults can and should occur in a typical parish. This Prezi diagram provides a quick walk-through of the document: http://prezi.com/6ed5odatigxv/our-hearts-were-burning-within-us-a-pastoral-plan-for-adult-faith-formation-in-the-united-states-usccb/

What do you think most prevents widespread, quality implementation of these ideas? Is there anything this document really misses the mark on?

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6 thoughts on “Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us: A Pastoral Plan for Adult Faith Formation in the United States (USCCB)

  1. Catholics adults think they already know enough to do a good-enough job of being Catholic. They’re just not very curious about their faith.
    Re the diagram: oh dear, My Heart Was Bored Within Me.

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    • You make a great point…I do think especially in Baby Boomer and older generations there is a strong sense of “knowing enough.” I think much of that stems from the attitude many parishes have put out for many decades, that the point of on-going formation is intellectual knowledge/education, rather than deepening one’s relationship with Jesus Christ through (of course) information, but also relationships with other adults, prayer in community, reflecting on one’s own life, etc.

      The story behind the Prezi on “Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us” is that I had to give a presentation on that particular USCCB document and 😉 it’s kind of wordy, so I wanted to break it down a bit. Personally, coming from many years of formation in independent Baptist congregations, I remember being quite perplexed the first time I read “Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us” — why did there need to be such a long explanation of something that my Baptist congregations seemed to do with such a matter-of-factness? The proportions of adults in those congregations who participated in Sunday School, small groups, or Wed night teaching services greatly exceeded any Catholic parish I’ve been in, and yet, they had no document–it just happened.

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  2. I don’t know a single knowledgable, faithful Catholic who has left the Church. But I know others who decided to love Jesus in a non-denom, and had no real idea of what they were leaving. They had faith; but lacked the knowledge, the intellectual development. Deepening one’s relationship with Jesus Christ can happen in any Christian community. But if the Catholic Church contains the fullness of truth, then Catholics must understand why that’s true, and be able to explain it to others.

    At least that’s true in South Carolina.

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  3. “The proportions of adults in those congregations who participated in Sunday School, small groups, or Wed night teaching services greatly exceeded any Catholic parish I’ve been in, and yet, they had no document–it just happened.” Yes. I bring this up at every opportunity at my parish. We have a motivated bunch of The Usual Suspects who participate in the life of the parish, which includes social stuff; but most people just put in their hour on Sunday.

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  4. What I have found is that the parish needs to re-orient itself to say that it exists to support the growth of faith of parishioners.
    This equates directly with the document’s first aim: invite and enable ongoing conversion to Jesus in holiness of life.

    Then the parish outlines what it is to be a Christian today. That creates an expectation in the minds of parishioners over time. So one of those aspects of Christian life today is prayer. So in a homily on prayer the priests say: “you need to pray every day. Some of you are great pray-ers, if you are not, here are some opportunities for you to learn about or take part in prayer… ” It leads to a massive increase in involvement.

    Same thing for ministry… the priest preach: “every parishioner is a minister – so what is your ministry?” Say four times over the year. Then credible parishioners ask for participation on a Ministry Sunday, not for the sake of the parish but “so you can grow in your faith.” This leads to a massive uptake of ministry. In one parish of 1500 attenders we gained 900 new ministers in one weekend (you can imagine we loved that but trying to organise people on that scale – we had to explain the parishioners we needed at least 3 months to get back to some people).

    In a really poorly run parish we, at one Mass community on Sunday night managed to have 110 ministers out of an attendance of 150, more than the other three Masses combined. Same method.

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