Guidepost 4 of Unleash the Gospel states, “For Christ's disciples in the Church of Detroit to be able to answer his call to evangelize, they need to have the appropriate formation…to mobilize, form and train all the members for carrying out their mission of building up the Church.” Once we have encountered Jesus and committed our lives to sharing in His mission to “go and make disciples,” the path of discipleship is lifelong. It is a journey that requires deepening of self-knowledge, theological reflection, and ongoing formation.
Self-knowledge is key – not based on our perception of who we are, but by developing the practice of self-examination. We must realistically look at our relationship with God, our relationships with other people, our abilities and charisms, and we must recognize our needs and desires, and “growth edges.”
Theological reflection provides a framework to help us to see the connection between daily life and faith and to integrate the various facets of our life and ministry. It’s an opportunity to encounter the abundant presence of God in one’s life, in and through events, revelation, and other people. God is always present to us; however, we don’t always recognize it. By taking time to reflect on how God is working in our lives, we can deepen our relationship with Him and see how God is working in the lives of others.
The USCCB document Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord highlights the importance of formation:
“Effective formation methods address the whole person: emotions, imagination, will, heart, and mind. It is the whole person who ministers, so the whole person is the proper subject of formation.” (USCCB, Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord, 33)
There are four areas —human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral— that provide a framework for formation. Human formation addresses the need for developing a lay ecclesial minister’s human qualities and character, healthy practices, and forming wholesome relationships for personal growth and service in ministry. Spiritual formation aims to ignite a strong desire for prayer and holiness in order to grow in relationship with God and neighbor. Ongoing conversion to Jesus Christ needs to animate our ministry in order to be fruitful. Intellectual formation provides appropriate knowledge in theological and pastoral studies which are rooted in God’s revelation and the living tradition of the Church, as well as the skill to serve people from diverse backgrounds and cultures in our parishes. Lastly, pastoral formation cultivates the practical skills which directly affect ministry.
It's in the balance of self-knowledge, theological reflection, and human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral formation that we are able to better serve in ministry as an effective instrument of God’s love and compassion, particularly now during this time of pandemic and social unrest. Begin by asking God for the guidance and grace to truly know yourself as He sees you, as His beloved daughter or son. Reflect daily on how you see God at work in your life, in your family, and in the community. Evaluate your own formation, which will help you to serve others well. As you minister to the people you serve, which areas of formation need to be developed more fully? How is the Lord speaking to your heart? Listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit and follow His promptings. Ask for the grace to see others through the eyes of Jesus and know that He walks with you every step of your journey.
Share some of these thoughts with your fellow co-workers in the vineyard with some discussion points on the Encounter Grow Witness online community !