Oct. 23-29, 2003
Spreading the News
By Eileen Jevis/ SUN staff writer
Speaker at the Good News Foundation will focus on small group faith sharing
UTICA –– The Good News Foundation is hosting a one-day workshop on October 28 from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. for small group faith sharing communities in the Syracuse Diocese. Sister Donna L. Ciangio, OP, a nationally known lecturer and project director of the National Pastoral Life Center in New York City, will present the workshop.
Sister Donna is a Dominican sister of Caldwell, NJ and has a Doctor of Ministry degree from Drew University and a Master’s degree in art and art education from New York University. Sister Donna has been lecturing and training priests, parish staffs and small community core teams to help them understand the small community movement as an integral part of parish life.
Kathy Poupart, director of the Good News Foundation, said that the formation of small groups changes peoples’ lives. “The formation of small groups within a parish gives the participants the means for developing community and connectedness among the parishioners,” said Poupart. “There is rhyme and reason to small groups. They can help with conversion and focus on the evangelization of the church.” While small groups focus on prayer and Scripture readings, they are not similar to bible study groups. Small faith sharing groups read the Scriptures and then discuss how that Scripture affects their own lives. “It’s more than just sharing Scripture,” said Poupart. Members come together to share their lives, pray, counsel and support each other.
John Droz is the executive director of the Good News Foundation and has been part of small faith sharing groups for over 20 years. “Small groups will be the salvation of the church,” he said. “When you gather a small group together in the name of the Holy Spirit, they can make a powerful difference.” Poupart explained that parishes already have existing groups in place that share common interests, such as the choir, the parish council, the altar and rosary groupand the funeral guild. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if those existing groups got together and formed a faith sharing group that started with prayer, introductions and sharing their lives with others?” asked Poupart. “The difference between these groups that are already in place and a faith sharing small group is that the former is task-oriented.”
Poupart used the example of a parish funeral guild. The members of a funeral guild don’t look at their group as a ministry, but as a group of people completing tasks that need to be done. “If they saw their work as a ministry, they would look beyond the task and would instead be concerned with the family and friends of the deceased and how they could best assist them with their needs,” she said. Droz said that in order for small groups to be successful, the members must have at least two things in common. “They must be of the same mind –– have the same problem or concerns, and they must be trustful of the other members of the group. They must also have the desire to evangelize others,” said Droz.
In continuing with the example of a funeral guild as a small group, Droz pointed out that members of this group have a common characteristic –– sympathy for the families and friends of the deceased. “They already have one of the elements necessary for a small group,” he said. “By combining prayer and Scripture readings, ideas are ignited. When discussions take place about the Scripture and how it impacts each individual’s life, people begin to share their problems –– whether it be marital problems, problems raising children, someone with a drinking problem or whatever. With God’s grace the message and answer will come to you,” said Droz. Sister Donna will explain the process of small groups at her presentation at the Good News Foundation. She will give direction and guidelines on how to start a small faith-sharing group or how to re-energize and revitalize existing small groups. Participants will be given the opportunity to explore their own ideas about small groups as well as shown how to develop a better vision for their parish. The workshop will include practical how-to’s for community growth, creating parish vision, exploring what kind of leadership is necessary and why adults learn best in a small community model.
The workshop is open to pastors, staff, key leaders and interested church members who are looking for ways to improve their churches through small Christian communities.
For additional information, contact Kathy Poupart at (315) 735-6210.