By Katherine Long
With nearly five decades in the field of faith formation, John Roberto asserts that a family-centered approach is essential: “We’re really not going to go very far in developing the faith life of children and teenagers if we don’t involve their parents, their grandparents, and the whole family,” he recently told the Sun.
Roberto will visit the diocese next month to present two workshops that will help parishes do just that. (See box for details.) His visit is presented by the Office of Faith Formation through Heritage Campaign funding.
Not only does Roberto have extensive expertise, “he’s passionate about what he does,” said director Cathy Cornue. “He knows how to give practical ideas, and he’s not afraid to challenge you to move beyond your comfort zone.”
Roberto began his faith formation career as a diocesan youth ministry director. “If you work with young people, you have to work with their families, their parents,” Roberto said. So his “approach to youth and youth ministry was always to include the family and the congregation, the whole parish. That got me into thinking about the role of families and how families are so important in terms of faith formation for children and youth.”
Roberto went on to found and direct the Center for Ministry Development, offering training, resources, and programming support for Catholic parishes and dioceses across the country. For the past 10 years, he has headed LifelongFaith Associates, continuing to research, write on, and offer training in faith formation for Catholic and Christian communities.
Over the years, families have changed, “so part of the challenge we have is to really adapt our approaches, our models, our understandings around today’s parents and today’s families,” Roberto said. Also key is understanding the role of family in a young person’s development and faith growth, he noted.
Roberto’s workshops will look at “a ‘top ten list’ of what’s new and different about today’s parents and families,” explore some of the research on the importance of families in the faith formation process, and offer eight core strategies for making families the center of parish faith formation efforts, he explained. Roberto said he hopes attendees will walk away with “a deeper appreciation of what family life is like today,” two or three things they can do in their parishes, and resources for further learning.
Cornue said she would love to see pastoral teams attend the workshops, from pastors to catechetical leaders to others in family ministries, “because it’s all about families. How are we helping families to grow in faith, how are we meeting their needs, how are we willing to look beyond the way that we’ve always done it?” she said.
It’s also a way to operationalize what Pope Francis says about the family, Roberto noted. The Holy Father speaks about “the context for what’s happening in families, and how the church needs to be pastoral, reach out to families, engage families, that whole ‘field hospital’ imagery. This is a way for parishes to take both what he says and the spirit of what he says and make it real in their parish communities.”
Families at the Center of Faith Formation workshops, presented by John Roberto
Tuesday, January 17
9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
$25 per person
Tuesday, January 17
6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
$15 per person
includes light dinner
Bishop Harrison Center
1342 Lancaster Ave, Syracuse
Catechetical leaders, pastors, pastoral teams, and all engaged with ministry to families
Register before January 13 at faithformationevents.weebly.com