Editor's Note: Augustine Institute plans the following webinars at 3 p.m.:
Jan. 21: Youth Ministry webinar with guest speaker Sean Dalton
Jan. 28: Adult Faith Formation/RCIA webinar with guest speaker Lucas Pollice
Feb. 4: Marriage & Family Life webinar with guest speaker Dr. Pia de Solenni
Story by S.L. Hansen
(SNR) – In the interest of improving understanding and practice of the Catholic faith throughout the diocese, Bishop James Conley has decided to use funds from the Joy of the Gospel campaign to purchase a two-year subscription to Formed.org for every parish in the diocese.
“It’s Bishop Conley’s way of saying, ‘Here is a fruit of the Joy of the Gospel campaign,’” said Father Andrew Heaslip, diocesan director of religious education.
Formed.org is an online platform for several top educational organizations. These include the Augustine Institute, Ignatius Press and Lighthouse Catholic Media. Other partners are Bishop Robert Baron’s Word on Fire, the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception and the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology.
Through Formed.org, a person can access professional-quality movies, audio recordings, books and other programs that inspire and instruct.
“All the providers of these materials are really strong in the faith and are leaders in New Evangelization,” said Father Heaslip.
Dr. Edward Sri, a theologian, author and nationally-known Catholic speaker, and director of the Augustine Institute, said that the idea for pulling together all these resources onto one online platform came from many pastors and directors of religious education who expressed a desire to get the best Catholic resources from one website.
“Why not make a place where some of the best Catholic teachers can be brought to thousands and thousands of people online?” he recalled.
He cited a sobering statistic from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: “One out of three people stop practicing within a few years,” he said. “If we are supposed to be fishers of men, we are fishermen with big holes in their nets.”
Dr. Sri noted that Bishop Conley is one of a handful of bishops who are making Formed.org available to every parish in their sees, which he called “incredible.”
Many parishes in the Diocese of Lincoln have already been using some of these materials. CDs from Lighthouse Catholic Media first started appearing in parishes over a decade ago. More recently, Symbolon from the Augustine Institute has become an RCIA staple in many parishes.
Quite a few parishes have used “33 Days to Morning Glory” from the Marian Fathers and Bishop Baron’s “Catholicism” DVD boxed set is already available in virtually every parish, to be borrowed for personal or group study.
According to Dr. Sri, Formed.org focuses on “evangelical moments of sacramental preparation.” These are the seasons of life when people are most open to hearing about the Catholic faith: marriage preparation, having a baby baptized, etc.
With parish subscriptions across the diocese, all Catholics will have access to the full collection of materials at Formed.org. Even better, parishioners will be able to share the access code with their non-Catholic family and friends to spread the truth about the Catholic faith.
Father Heaslip emphasized that the idea isn’t to just send somebody off to watch a video. When inviting a non-Catholic or non-practicing Catholic to use Formed.org, it’s important to follow up and discuss what the person learned, felt or experienced.
“Nothing can really replace the one-on-one and the communal dimension of our faith,” he stressed. “Faith lives in people. It’s not contained in a database.”
Parishes will find the vast array of resources can be used for many different audiences. The site includes YDisciple, a customized youth formation program that is ideal for Godteens groups, or for parents to use at home with their adolescents.
Programs for marriage and baptismal preparation are already online. Meanwhile, programs that prepare candidates for their first Reconciliation and first Communion are in the works.
“There are a lot of different ways it can be used and a lot of different styles of materials for different audiences and different purposes,” Father Heaslip said.
He foresees couples inviting other married friends over for dinner and a “Beloved” video to enrich marriages. Parishes could host weekly movie nights to view the scripture series by Steve Ray. Families could start a weekly gathering with a short video about a saint.
The Formed.org website is very easy to navigate. Programs can also be accessed on mobile devices, which means Catholics will be able to tap into excellent faith-forming resources anywhere they are accustomed to accessing the Internet.
Each parish will receive 24 months of access at no cost. The 21 diocesan parishes that already had subscriptions to Formed.org will receive two-year extensions.
“There’s enough time to really dig into it and really find its value according to the needs of the parish,” Father Heaslip explained. “From there, a parish council can make the decision whether or not to continue on.”
Father Thomas Dunavan, pastor of Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in Fall City, is excited about the potential that Formed.org will bring to his parish.
“This gives up all the opportunity to do more than just say, ‘This is what I think the Church says…’ It’s a great body of information that we can tap into,” he said.
“For those who do take advantage of this program, they will definitely grow in their love for the faith and for Christ, and they will also grow in their awareness of the importance of sharing their faith,” Father Heaslip said. “Evangelization is not an ‘extra’ to being Catholic. It’s part of being Catholic.”
Watch your parish bulletin and/or website for more information about how you and your family can access Formed.org. Several “how-to” webinars will be offered by the diocese as well (see note at top).