Around the ArchdioceseFaith Formation

Cedar Falls parish strengthens faith formation

St. Patrick’s begins new programs and resurrects old ones

By Laura Dobson
Special to The Witness

CEDAR FALLS — New faith formation activities at St. Patrick Catholic Church are bringing new parishioners into the parish, helping current parishioners strengthen their faith, and allowing parishioners to get to know one another through increased spiritual and fellowship opportunities.

New Catholic Faith for Adults Program Launched

This fall, a team gathered to plan and implement a new program titled Catholic Faith for Adults. This series has a dual focus: to enrich the faith lives of current parishioners and to educate those interested in learning more about the faith as they discern joining the church. On the weekend of Nov. 19 and 20, St. Patrick Church welcomed eight adults to the Lord’s table.

Under the leadership of Father Dennis Colter, the program was developed using the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church as the guide. Classes were held after 9:30 a.m. Mass on six Sunday mornings over a three month period this fall. Leaders of the sessions included Father Colter; Youth Ministry Coordinator Rosie Guerrero; Deacon Al Weber’s wife, Jill; parishioner Peggy Gannon; and lay formation program graduate and St. Patrick Catholic School teacher Pam Schmitt.

Other members of the team provided support and insight in small group discussions. Participant LaRae Stedman noted, “The best part of the class was the fellowship at the tables.”

New parishioner Danielle Comer said, “I appreciated the welcoming environment and how helpful everyone was in helping me to understand the Catholic faith.”

Many lifelong Catholics attended the interactive sessions to brush up on their faith as well as support those who were exploring joining the church. A current parishioner stated that he learned more about his religion, because when he was young he wasn’t quite as interested. He felt he had lost his way, and said “it was good to come back.”

A non-Catholic participated to learn more about his spouse’s religion. After attending church together for 16 years, he reports he now has a better understanding of the faith.

Those who were only able to attend some of the sessions will complete the series with the next group after the holidays. This second group will look toward joining the church at the Easter Vigil or to simply continuing in their faith journeys.

Young Adult Ministry Revived

Recognizing that young adults ages 21-30 needed an organized group of peers to better stay connected to the parish, the St. Patrick Young Adult Ministry group was resurrected this summer. A core group was formed to establish a focus, plan events and publicize the ministry primarily through social media.

The core group has been mindful of the need to be inclusive of all relationships: single, married with or without children, and divorced. Their goal is to establish a community, capitalize on volunteer experiences and explore various aspects of the Catholic faith. The group has been especially successful in attracting newer members of the parish. Parishioner Diane Flaherty, who has been working with the young adults, observed that “only two of the young adults were originally St. Patrick parishioners (lifers). All [of the rest] have moved into the parish from college.”

The first organized activity was forming a kickball team. While the St. Patrick group was not very successful in the win column, by the end of the season they were playing like a seasoned team.

Events of a more spiritual nature have included an evening exploring St. Teresa of Calcutta, discussing her “dark night of the soul” and looking at the struggles in faith of group members and how they maintain faithfulness. The group also worked together serving the evening meal at the Catholic Worker House.

The group hosted a Gratitude Journal on Google Docs for the month of November. Young adults posted entries daily or weekly, including one person, thing or item each was thankful for.

On Nov. 14, they held a Friendsgiving Feast with turkey provided, side dishes to share and board games for fellowship ­after the meal.

The women of the ministry have formed a Women, Wisdom and Worship group to discuss issues central to women, faith and culture. The team will meet monthly in homes to have a more personal setting for this additional faith building opportunity.

K-12 Program Collaboration

This year, new coordinators Tracey Ryan-Wiering (K-Gr. 8) and Rosie Guerrero (Gr. 9-12) are sharing a large office to facilitate the exchange of ideas. Prior to this year, the coordinator for the younger students was housed not in the parish office but in the school building, which serves as home to their weekly classes. Working together is easier now, and the team is planning to add more family, service, and faith-building events to accompany the spiritual component addressed in the regu­lar Wednesday evening classes.

Older students are helping with safety patrol on Wednesday evenings and are enjoying their new responsibility helping the younger ones be safe. A Faith Formation Night/Fundraiser at a Waterloo Blackhawks hockey game is being planned for K-12 students and families this winter. To kick off the second semester, a “Family Night” is in the works for Jan. 4. Such evenings were part of the program years ago and are being brought back to help students and families connect with one another.

To provide more opportunities on a weekly basis, Gurerro has further developed a Sunday evening program begun last year for high school students. To complement the regular Wednesday evening classes, this group meets to discuss “fun” topics more relevant to youth today and to relate those subjects to their Catholic faith. Time for games, activities and opportunities to serve the parish and community are emphasized in the grade 9-12 program to keep students connected to peers in their faith group. To create a more inviting environment and to make the Youth Center more of their own space, the high schoolers are planning a mural to paint in December.

Faith Formation Coordinator Suzy ­Luecke is pleased with the teamwork among staff and parishioners and the results of the new initiatives. “We are excited for all ages to grow in their faith, feel welcome and be active in the St. Patrick Parish community.”

Dobson is marketing coordinator for St. Patrick Parish in Cedar Falls.

St. Patrick Church confirmation candidates Jaydn Ravn, Emma Berte and Sydney Davis prepare a meal for the Catholic Worker House in Waterloo. Other students have strengthened their faith and connected with the parish by hosting childcare for the Catholic Faith Formation for Adults program and Marriage Enrichment nights. (Contributed photo)