Growing in knowledge of faith in the diocese Print
Around the Diocese
Written by Michelle Nilsson, For the Catholic Herald   
Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017 -- 12:00 AM
seat of wisdom

MADISON -- “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”

We begin by reflecting on these words by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, which define our mission as Christians as being a disciple to Christ and thus our relationship with him gives “direction” to our lives.

Pope Benedict was reflecting in his document, Deus Caritas Est, that the fundamental decision that every Christian must make for his/her life is to follow Christ, with great intention, in word and in deed.

Forming lifelong disciples

In recent years, there is a lot of “buzz” and books being written in the Church about the programs that have been done in the Church over the last 50 years. These resources are challenging us to ask ourselves, “Are we effective in forming disciples as Jesus had instructed?”

They certainly call our attention to the state of practice of the faith in light of the post-Christian values that we face in the world today. These resources can be useful for sure and although they are helpful and remind us of the urgency to introduce all people to the person of Jesus Christ, we need not look any further than our Lord and our early Church Fathers to see that this has always been the priority of Holy Mother Church -- to form lifelong disciples of Jesus Christ.

Jesus himself sent forth his apostles stating, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20). And we see century after century, through the power of the Holy Spirit, saints begetting saints and discipleship being handed on in the life of the Church.

Who are disciples?

So what does this all mean? Who or what identifies us as disciples?

Simply put, disciples are those of who have a life committed to following Christ -- they seek holiness, they pray daily, they live according to the precepts of the Church, they seek the sacramental life in the Church, they grow in wisdom and knowledge of the faith, they serve their “neighbor” and lead others to discipleship. We who call ourselves disciples are committed to these habits.

So with hopeful anticipation, we echo the words of our bishops in the United States, “We are filled with great joy and expectation as the third millennium of Christian history dawns. Before us, in the wonder of God’s gracious plan, stretch new opportunities to proclaim the Good News of Jesus to all the world. We are eager to witness and share the word of life about the reign of God faithfully, so that each new generation can hear this word in its own accents and discover Christ as its Savior.”

These are the words of our bishops at the beginning of the millennium in their letter to the faithful entitled, “Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us” (OHWBW), a pastoral plan for adult faith formation in the United States. The document goes on to clarify the importance of on-going formation of adults in the life of the Church. It even goes so far as to call adult formation a “central task in our catechetical enterprise” (OHWBW 5).

Faith formation for adults

In order to fulfill our mission as disciples of Christ and bring Christ to the world, we must be mature in our own understanding of the faith -- this is clear.

One of the ways we can ensure the continued maturity of faith among disciples is to offer opportunities to perfect the work that has begun in each of us at our Baptism: to provide faith formation for adults to encounter Jesus in a profound way and to deepen our love and understanding of him and the Christian life.

In the Diocese of Madison, the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis (OEC) would like to invite all the faithful to grow in knowledge of the faith, hence, helping them to become better disciples of Christ. In the OEC, there are several opportunities in the coming year for all adults in the diocese:

• Seat of Wisdom Diocesan Institute invites all to an in-depth study on the sacraments each month with Abbot Marcel Rooney, OSB, entitled, “The Liturgy and Theology of the Sacraments.”

• Seat of Wisdom Diocesan Institute offers monthly courses in our Basic Curriculum at Holy Name Heights covering the full teaching of the Catholic faith according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

• The OEC invites all those interested to a talk entitled “Liturgical Catechesis & the New Evangelization: The Mystery of Faith and Sacraments” by James Pauley, professor of Catechetics and Theology at Franciscan University in Steubenville on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017 at Holy Name Heights.

• Each year the Bishop’s Office hosts a lecture series entitled the St. Thérèse Lecture Series, where a speaker is invited into the diocese to share on a relevant topic to the Church and the world. The dates, times, and speakers are yet to be announced for this coming year. Stay tuned to the Catholic Herald for upcoming events.

Full schedules and more information regarding the above mentioned events are available on the diocesan website or contact the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 608-821-3160. We can’t wait to see you there!


Michelle Nilsson is the associate director of the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis of the Diocese of Madison.