Exploring the six characteristics of a fully formed adult Catholic

When our daughter was pretty young, she played in a pee-wee softball league one summer. On the way to the last game of the season she said to me, “So dad, when you catch the ball, which way do you run?”

Despite the best efforts of the coach, she was still confused about the basic strategy — or mission — of the game.

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I thought about that as I was reading the section on adult formation in Joe Paprocki’s book, “A Church On the Move.”

According to Paprocki, our failure to adequately form adult disciples is the most serious threat facing the church today. “If we are going to become a church on the move,” he writes, “we need to make adult faith formation a real priority.”

This does not require more adult education classes, Paprocki warns; “It means, rather, to look at everything the parish does through the lens of developing disciples.”

Paprocki goes on to list six characteristics of “a fully formed adult Catholic”:

  • the ability to articulate a basic under­stand­ing of Catholic teaching,
  • participation in the sacramental life of the church,
  • living according to the church’s moral principles,
  • an active prayer life,
  • participation in the faith community,
  • and commitment to the mission.

I don’t know if Joe meant to imply that any one of these is more important than the others, but I think you could argue that commitment to mission is actually the most important thing on the list, and all the others exist in service to that purpose.

Then I think you could argue that if adults are confused or ambivalent about the mission, they’d be a little bit like our daughter — somewhat confused or ambivalent about everything else on the list because those things have no real purpose apart from the mission.

So the real question is, what is our mission? And, why are Catholics confused about that? Before we leave the topic of adult formation, let’s talk more about that next time.

I said last time that I believe adult Catholics know more than we think they do, and I stand by that conviction. When I talk with young parents who are preparing to baptize a new infant or visit with “non-practicing” Catholics who come into our downtown hospitality center, I am regularly surprised by how much they remember from what they learned as children — even during what we claim was the total disintegration of Catholic religious education.

But I am not sure they understand why all of that makes any difference. I do think they are confused about our mission — about their mission — as disciples who are Catholic Christians.

What do you think?

 Pray and Reflect

Use one or more of the following questions for personal reflection, group discussion or private journaling:

  • On a scale of 1 (low) to 5 (high) rate how clear your children, grandchildren or students are about the mission of Christian disciples. How would you have rated this five years ago?
  • Do you think there is confusion or ambivalence about the mission of Christian disciples in the world today? How is this different from the past? If it’s not confusion about the mission, what are the reasons adults are not more responsive to their role as disciples of Jesus? What are we doing — what should we be doing — to help our children, grandchildren and students understand the mission of Christian disciples in the world today?
  • When I think about my mission as a Christian disciples, I …

 Join the Conversation

Add your comments to this week’s discussion at facebook.com/FaithLeaders­Corner/.

Dave Cushing is director of adult faith formation for the Catholic parishes in Waterloo. The Disciple’s Corner is sponsored by the Archdiocese of Dubuque’s Office of Faith Formation and Education and is funded through the Archdiocesan Educational Development Board. It is designed to help catechists, teachers, parents, grandparents, guardians and other adults grow in their appreciation of their role as disciples of Jesus Christ.

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