CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 15 April 2017

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Good formation of the laity essential to a mature faith life

Each Pentecost, the bishop of Hong Kong celebrates a Mass for the newly-baptised at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, marking the end of the Period of Mystagogy and the completion of the process of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Since last year, the number of new Catholics has grown to the point that the Mass has to be celebrated twice. This should be greeted with joy and reflects the fruit of evangelisation efforts through which many have heard God’s call and joined the Church. 
 
However, we must pay attention to the faith formation of the newly baptised. According to the Diocesan Synod of 2000-2001, “Faith is a journey that requires a life-long ongoing formation” and “helps the faithful to grow so that they learn the integration of body, heart and mind…” (Faith Formation of the Laity and Lay Ministry, 2.7 and 2.8). We need long-term plans to meet the needs of such a large number of new Catholics. 
 
The synod discussed this and came up with concrete directions. Among them was an emphasis the role of faith formation (Article 15). Then in August 2006, the Diocesan Commission for Laity Formation and the Diocesan Office for Laity Formation were dissolved with the aim of giving parishes and deaneries greater responsibility for the faith formation of the laity.
 
Since then, the organisations responsible for faith formation have convened regular joint meetings to provide a platform of inter-organisation collaboration and sharing while in recent years, various units within the diocese have undertaken a number of initiatives. Over the past five years, we have also seen parishes and deaneries come together to jointly organise activities. However, we must make sure that the fruit of all this labour is good and that parishes and deaneries have adequate resources, manpower and support from diocesan organisations 
 
At Pentecost 23 years ago, then-bishop of Hong Kong, John Baptist Cardinal Wu promulgated his pastoral exhortation, March into the Bright Decade, in which he suggested promoting small faith communities to aid in the faith formation of the laity—identified by the Diocesan Synod as one of its 10 pastoral priorities. Today, the development of small faith communities has yet to reach a stage of maturity.
 
Small faith communities can be good gardens for the formation of new Catholics. They can serve as venues where the newly-baptised can continue to meet, with facilitators to journey with them as they grow in their faith life. Of course, parishes would have to make appropriate arrangements for this to work, but it can be an opportunity to lay down a firm foundation, which should be considered a priority.
 
We can measure the number of formation activities from a management perspective, but the work is hard to quantify since it concerns conversion of hearts and the development of faith life. We hope that all the faithful—including clergy and laity, the secular and the religious—will make a concerted effort to help nurture mature Christians who will shoulder responsibilities within the Church and bear living witness to Jesus Christ. SE