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Online platform offers resources to grow in faith all year long

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St. Michael the Archangel parishioner Cathy Bartczak, member of the Adult Catholic Education ministry, signs in to The Search, a program offered through FORMED that allows participants to explore some of the deepest questions of the heart. The program is being offered on Tuesday afternoons in a socially distanced setting at St. Patrick Hall. (Lynda J. Hemmerling photo)

 

BY LYNDA J. HEMMERLING

NWIC correspondent

 

        As parishes look to the future and establish ways to bring the Catholic faith into the homes of parishioners, FORMED is turning into a solution for some. The online platform allows parishes, schools, religious education classes and youth ministry leaders in the Diocese of Gary to have Catholic educational information at their fingertips.

        Recently, St. Michael the Archangel in Schererville began a FORMED video series called "The Search," which explores questions of deep meaning for people's hearts, said Father Jacob McDaniel, associate pastor. More than 10 people have signed up to view the series in person during Lent, he said, adding that it is still not too late to sign up for the seven-part Augustine Institute series hosted by Chris Stefanick.

        Father McDaniel explained that St. Michael parishioners can sign up by going to the FORMED website and entering the zip code for the parish, 46375. Then they must type in their email address and name to access the full suite of FORMED offerings. Others may sign up through their own parishes or through the diocese itself. 

        Sean Martin, diocesan director of Evangelization, Catechesis, and Family Life, said 24 parishes have taken advantage of the discounted rate the Augustine Institute has offered through the diocese to offer the FORMED materials to their parishioners. The diocese entered into a partnership with the Augustine Institute in 2017 to encourage parishes to subscribe and take advantage of all FORMED has to offer. “Prior to our official partnership, we had a few parishes who had already been subscribing to FORMED,” Martin said.

        He encourages other parishes to join FORMED, which provides “unprecedented access to video-based study programs, feature films, audio presentations and eBooks from the Church’s foremost presenters. Whether fallen away or deeply engaged, at the parish or on the go, FORMED helps you reach your flock anytime, anywhere.”

        St. Michael was one of the early subscribers, noted Father McDaniel. “The obvious benefit of signing up through the parish is access to many movies, videos, documentaries, books and audio books,” he said. “FORMED is a great way to include a few minutes a day of spiritual reading, a talk about the faith, or listening to something spiritual on the way to work – to find time in our day to include our relationship with God and our faith.”

        Father McDaniel and Cathy Laughlin, director of Stewardship and Evangelization for Queen of All Saints in Michigan City, said that the Advent and Christmas seasons tend to attract a lot of participation.

        At St. Michael, parishioners participated in a series to prepare for Christmas called “The Road to Bethlehem.” “It was a series that you could listen to or watch in order to prepare your heart for the coming of Christ at Christmas,” said Father McDaniel, who greatly appreciated the series.

        Since QAS first shared the gift of FORMED with parishioners in 2018, Laughlin said, the parish does an Advent/Christmas relaunch each year. Currently, the parish has 160 FORMED users and an additional 60 youth users from Marquette Catholic High School.

        Martin explained that FORMED participants can stream and download its resources. “Every person is looking for something different,” Martin said. “Some of our parishes use the Sacramental Preparation programs, some people listen to audio talks by Bluetooth streaming in the car, and still others take advantage of their movie selection.”

        Laughlin said FORMED has helped QAS parishioners with their faith in several ways. “About 30 of our small-group participants in the spring of 2020 were able to move easily from an in-person format to an online format because they all could access the small-group programs on FORMED,” she said.

        “During Lent 2021, we are offering small faith-sharing groups to strengthen their relationship with Jesus. Two of the small-group programs are from the FORMED platform, which will allow participants the flexibility to join the program in-person or online.”

        Another group that has benefited from the FORMED programs are RCIA participants. “They currently use FORMED resources to learn about the beauty of the Catholic faith as they take this faith journey,” Laughlin said.

        “Our entire parish community receives FORMED program recommendations through our bulletin, website and in email articles. This regular communication about the FORMED resources enables members to learn their faith at home.

        “We foresee the use of the FORMED tool as a key faith formation resource in the future as we strive to fulfill our parish mission to ‘Be Saints and Make Saints,’” she said.

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