I grew up in a Catholic home, where most years of my elementary education were at a Catholic school, where we practiced Catholic traditions and devotions from time to time, where we always went to Mass on Sundays, and where I knew my parent’s greatest inheritance for me was the faith. In hindsight, however, I was a mediocre Catholic. If I participated in the mission God gave me at my baptism, it was purely by accident, not by intention. As a young adult, I was in the Army and moved around quite a bit. In each new place I would search the chapel or parish bulletin for opportunities to learn more about my faith. I almost never found anything suited for me. Activities and events in the parish were for children and families, but I was a single young adult. What about me? I was basically living from my eighth grade understanding of the faith.
By these experiences, I learned that we Catholics need to be continually formed in our faith, in a lifelong process, so that we might be equipped to perform our God-given mission from baptism. But where must this formation take place? It first takes place in the home, the domestic church, and then in the parish, the house of formation for the laity.
The Parish is the Curriculum
Once young adults leave home to make their way in the world, how are they to receive ongoing formation in the faith? This is where the parish must augment what happens in the home and must continually provide various opportunities for adult faith formation. In 1999, the U.S. Catholic bishops produced Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us: A Pastoral Plan for Adult Faith Formation in the United States, which highlights the irreplaceable “dimensions” and “concrete approaches” of adult faith formation.
The Six Dimensions of Adult Faith Formation
According to the U.S. bishops, “The ongoing development of a living, explicit, and fruitful Christian faith in adulthood requires growth in all six [of these] dimensions. Each of them is a fundamental aspect of Christian life and a foundational content area for adult faith formation.” The six dimensions are as follows.