Faith Formation

Lay formation program participants growing deeper in faith

IMPACT accepting applications for its 2017-2019 sessions

By Dan Russo

Witness Editor

WAVERLY — When Father Ken Glaser asked John Hlas if he was interested in applying for IMPACT, the two-year adult lay formation program sponsored by the Archdiocese of Dubuque, he jumped at the chance.

“I didn’t even have to think about it,” recalls Hlas, a member of the pastoral council at St. Stephen the Witness Parish, which serves the University of Northern Iowa campus and the surrounding community.

Although he was already involved in his parish and well into his faith journey, the Cedar Falls resident found himself going deeper during monthly group meetings and one-on-one sessions with his spiritual advisor.

“I think these sessions can (be) and (for me) are transformative,” wrote Hlas in his final reflection on the course. “This learning is absolutely at my core already, perhaps buried deep within my soul, but undeniably there. IMPACT drew out what has been placed there in the beginning and has been actively trying to be rediscovered and claimed throughout my life.”

Hlas was one of 64 people in the latest crop of IMPACT participants to finish the program. A ceremony and Mass celebrated by Archbishop Michael Jackels was held at St. Mary Parish in Waverly May 6 to mark the occasion. The group had met regularly at this location to discuss reading materials, written reflections, and hear talks given by people with knowledge of a variety of aspects of the Catholic faith and spiritual development. Some of the speakers over the course of the program were experts from Loras College, which partners with the archdiocese for IMPACT.

Participants reported feeling bolder in their faith thanks to the program. Some have taken what they’ve learned about God’s love and put it into action. This is definitely the case for Julie Vulk, another IMPACT graduate from the latest class. The active member of St. Benedict Parish in Decorah drove three hours to Waverly and back with four other participants to attend IMPACT each month.

“On the car rides, we got three extra hours to discuss what was going on,” said Vulk.

Part of the program helps people to learn about their “charisms” or individual gifts for serving God. Vulk, a vivacious person, learned through the program that she has a gift for “inviting and encouraging people.” Through the program, she embraced her own personality and became more confident in using it to serve.

“My spiritual life has grown by leaps and bounds; my enthusiasm for my faith has grown,” reflected Vulk. “I have been affirmed that Jesus loves happy disciples, caring disciples, who share the love, the happiness, the empathy as he did.  I am so much better at giving the praise and glory to our dear Lord than I have ever been!”

Vulk also reported that she has always had strong faith, but has become “a better defender of my faith” and she’s now more likely to share her passion for being a Christian with others.

Since retiring from work in government about two years ago, Vulk has turned her hobby of tailoring into a business. She stayed engaged in parish activities while completing IMPACT. As a result of the program, she now also talks about faith and other related issues regularly outside of church. She will have discussions with her clients while altering dresses, for example — something she  didn’t normally do in the past.

“I knew I had talents, and now, when praised, can say, ‘It might be my hands, my hands are God’s tools, He deserves the praise!” she wrote in her final reflection for the course.

IMPACT is open to any adult who desires a deeper relationship with Christ and a greater understanding of the Catholic faith in order to further the kingdom of God. The next IMPACT begins in September of 2017 with members enrolling now. The monthly 2017-19 IMPACT sessions will be held at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Hiawatha. Applications and more information are online at  Deadline for applications is July 31, 2017. Program organizers may, however, review applications after Aug. 1 depending on space availability and other deadline considerations. For more information, contact Mary Pedersen, director of adult faith formation for the Archdiocese of Dubuque, at 563-556-2580 ext. 298.

Photo: John Hlas, who completed IMPACT, with his spiritual mentor, Anastasia Nicklaus, and Archbishop Michael Jackels May 6 at St. Mary Parish in Waverly following a ceremony to mark the completion of the program. A total of 64 people from around the archdiocese were recognized for finishing the program. (Contributed photo)