Re-visioning faith formation with adolescents


By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

Picture this: you’re seated in an airplane at 30,000 feet cruising level. You’re going to land sooner or later. But at this moment you’re concentrating on one thing — an overview of the territory. Don Boucher gives that analogy for a process examining the present state of adolescent faith formation and re-visioning it for the future. This first phase in the process culminates with a daylong “Calling Youth to Mission” workshop May 4 at St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City.

Lindsay Steele
Grant Rheinschmidt, a member of Ss. John & Paul Parish in Burlington, and Lorena Nava, a member of St. Mary Parish in Davenport, motivate the crowd during the Junior High Youth Rally March 19 at Regina Catholic Education Center in Iowa City. Grant and Lorena are high school youth members of the Diocesan Youth Ministry Committee.

Boucher, who directs the diocesan Office of Faith Formation, invites parish pastoral leaders, faith formation leaders (including Catholic school principals and campus ministers) and faith formation volunteer leaders to participate in the workshop. Their input is crucial to ministry that matters to adolescents and their families.

Leading up to the workshop Boucher surveyed pastoral leaders, adult leaders in ministry with adolescents, and young persons in grades six through 12. Adult leaders responded to questions such as this one: How would you rate the effectiveness of your parish’s/school’s ministry with adolescents in forming them into deeply committed faith-filled Catholics? Pastoral leaders responded to similar questions. One example: From your experience and observation of adolescents in your parish, what is the place and role of faith and church participation in their everyday lives? Youths responded to questions and were also asked to rate their parish’s faith formation programming. On a scale of 1 to 5, they could rate whether faith formation “helps me in my everyday life” or “it’s a waste of time.”


More than 85 pastoral leaders and adult faith formation leaders responded to the surveys while more than 420 youths took time to complete one. Well over half of the youth respondents attend Catholic schools. “This initial input gives us a snapshot of the present state of our faith formation efforts,” Boucher observes. “The more input we receive, however, will determine how ‘in’ or ‘out’ of focus that snapshot is.”
The workshop will flesh out the results of the surveys and consider how to move forward, with the assistance of presenter Tom East from the Center for Ministry Development. “We’ll explore our relationship with Jesus as leaders and what it takes to become a disciple-building parish, to transform faith formation into disciple-building, to support families of disciples, equip young people as disciples and accompany youths in their journey as disciples,” Boucher said. The day will conclude with “naming implications and starting points for re-visioning faith formation in our parishes and diocese.”

Boucher notes that “nationally and internationally, there is broad consensus among church and ministry leaders that we are at a critical time when change and adaptation is necessary. Conversation and dialogue is happening at many different levels, including the Vatican with the announcement of the theme of the next Synod of Bishops (October 2018) being ‘Young People, Faith, and Vocational Discernment.’”
Faith isn’t “sticking” with youths as it did in past generations, added Boucher, who has worked in youth ministry for more than 40 years. “We’re at the stage now that we need to take risks and to innovate. It’s not that our kids aren’t open to the message. I think our delivery system is outdated.” He is convinced that parishes are equipped to meet the needs, and that the Holy Spirit has endowed each faith community with all of the gifts it needs to do the ministry it’s called to do.

“Going back to the airplane analogy, at 30,000 feet up, all you can do is survey the area and see patterns that describe how effective we are being in our present faith formation.” But it’s a starting point, Boucher says. “What we learn and discover on the day of the workshop will serve as a foundation for moving forward in our common journey to re-vision and transform our faith formation for adolescents throughout our diocese.”

Workshop details
What: Calling Youth to Mission Workshop
When: Thursday, May 4, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Where: St. Patrick Parish, Iowa City
Who should go: Parish pastoral leaders (pastors, Parish Life Coordinators, clergy, etc.), faith formation leaders (directors/coordinators of religious education, youth ministers, Catholic School principals, campus ministers, etc.), and faith formation volunteer leaders (catechists, adult youth ministry volunteers, etc.).
Cost: $30/person and $105 maximum/parish (send as many from your parish for this price) by April 21. Late registration until May 1 is $35/person and $125 max/parish. Fee includes workshop materials, a copy of the Executive Summary of the survey results, and lunch.
Register: online at

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