With all of the traveling that I do, sometimes my calendar can get a little crazy. I’ve gotten better at it, but I can remember some times when I asked myself, “What was I thinking when I said yes to this?”
In parish life, we do this all the time. Even when we have calendaring meetings that should remove such conflicts, we still sometimes find ourselves overbooked and unable to devote time and energy to those things that are most important to us as a faith community—such as celebrating the Death and Resurrection of Jesus! As a result, it is not uncommon to see parishes promoting a comedy night, fashion show, or March basketball viewing party during the season of Lent, our most solemn time of the year. Apparently, since these events always happened at that time of the year, no one questioned whether or not that was the best time to invest time and energy in such activities.
When planning your calendar for adult faith formation, it’s important to avoid creating a perception of health just by the number of activities packing the calendar. Rather, it is imperative to focus on activities and experiences that are important to the mission of the Church, which is to lead people to conversion—transformation of hearts and minds—through the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In practical terms, this means that planning and calendaring for adult faith formation should not begin with the first day of the calendar year, the first day of the fiscal year, or the first day of the academic year. Rather, planning and calendaring should center on the liturgical calendar, which focuses on the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ. And, although the liturgical calendar begins with the First Sunday of Advent, planning for adult faith formation should begin with the center and climax of the liturgical year, namely, the Triduum and Easter.
Before anything else in the life of the parish is planned, the dates for the Triduum, Easter (and its 50 days), Holy Week, Lent, and Ash Wednesday should be noted, highlighted, and etched in stone. From there, you can plan how these seasons and feasts will be observed through adult faith formation offerings. Lenten programs, Penance and Reconciliation services, RCIA rites, and sacramental celebrations during the Easter season are just some of the things that must be given priority. Everything else you do in adult faith formation, week in and week out, is directed toward the celebration of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, with each Sunday being a “mini-Easter.” Once the priority celebrations and observances are all in place, you can determine which other adult faith formation offerings support the parish mission and what time of the year is most appropriate for these activities.
Our adult faith formation ministry should not be just a program with lots of moving parts but should be powered by the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.