Revisiting the Notion of Brokenness and Adult Faith Formation

younger person helping elderly person

It would seem that I touched a nerve (in a good way) when I suggested recently that our adult faith formation efforts need to focus on brokenness. This idea really seems to resonate with people, based on the volume of comments and the number of people who shared the post on social networks. Thanks for making this such a robust conversation. I thought it might be helpful to revisit it and delve a little deeper.

The question comes down to: How do we make this happen on a practical level? What are the first steps?

In my mind, one of the first steps at the parish level would be to bring together the faith formation team and the human concerns team to explore the needs of people in the parish community and brainstorm how outreach can be coupled with formation in faith.

For example, if one of the major human concerns in the parish is addressing the needs of the elderly, perhaps the parish could explore opportunities for helping the elderly to explore how Scripture and Tradition speak to issues such as suffering, loss, surrender, contemplation, forgiveness and reconciliation, new life (grandchildren!), and yes, even death and the afterlife.

Likewise, if one of the major human concerns in the parish community is poverty, perhaps the parish could explore opportunities for helping those who are unemployed to acquire not only job-searching skills but also to see how Scripture and Tradition speak to the issues of poverty, labor, vocation, stewardship, Catholic social teaching, God’s Providence, prayer, and so on.

What other examples can you offer?

About Joe Paprocki 2739 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at

8 Comments on Revisiting the Notion of Brokenness and Adult Faith Formation

  1. Have you heard of Missionaries of the Sacred Heart? They are in Aurora, IL and have several healing type retreats… Healing Childhood Hurts, Life’s Healing Journey, one for Healing from Divorce, etc. I have attended several of their weekend retreats and they are fabulous! im not sure if this is what you are looking for, but from my experience I needed an entire weekend retreat to start delving into my past wounds, brokenness, whatever you want to call it. The retreat leaders at MSC could at the very least help you to figure out what to include in your outreach. God Bless!

  2. Hi Joe. Ron Rolheiser made a list of basic longings everyone has. To put this into your brokenness frame, we could say that anyone that is still longing for these things is broken or not yet whole. His list includes:

    When Pope Francis talks about the church as a field hospital, I think he means that our parishes exist to help people fulfill those longings. A lot of the secular self-help industry is built around fulfilling these basic human needs that are not getting met. The powerful difference we bring to the table is, of course, Christ. We can share how Christ has answered everyone of these longing for us and how he offers that same gift to anyone who asks.

    I wrote about this in the context of evangelization instead of adult faith formation, but the principles are the same. You can read the post here if you’re interested:

    Keep up the great work.


  3. I’d second “Life’s Healing Journey” – Good stuff. Did it years ago with the founder, Fr. Peter Campbell. Life-changing.

    Other topics/source of brokenness that affect adults in our parishes today could be

  4. Ask the parishioners! We need to meet people where they are. Take a pulse. If there are a lot of caregivers out there, widows/widowers, divorced, whatever…get them together informally and have a conversation. Maybe they would like a support group, a night out, spiritual direction, an evening of reflection. At our parish, I started a monthly group called “Prayerful Pause” where we talk about where God is in our lives around various topics. Over Lent, our topics were about dryness in prayer and times of suffering. It was powerful. Looking at the Rolheiser list that Nick posed for us makes me think about how our brokenness causes us to walk around as unworthy. This is the time for us as Church…as Christ…to reach out and be present. It was Hemingway who said, “The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.”

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