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Parish Advocacy Program Continues to Develop
11/30/2011

Do you ever wonder or struggle with how to integrate your Catholic faith with other areas of your life?

Since 1994, the Center for Faith & Culture (CFC) has explored this question, specifically on how one can integrate their Catholic faith into the American culture through dialogue. Through conferences, workshops and, more recently, the inception of its Master of Arts in Faith & Culture (MAFC) program in the fall of 2010, the CFC has been training leaders of this cultural dialogue. Now, the CFC is continuing development on a new program that would expand its training to the fertile grounds of parishes.        

“For six summers in a row, we did spirituality workshops and given our experience in those, what I decided we have to do is take what our students are learning in-depth, and design some things that are going to help people in the pews,” said Fr. Donald Nesti, director of the Center for Faith & Culture.

The result has been the ongoing development of the Parish Advocacy Program, which seeks to provide catechists and parishioners with material that will help them learn how to live more fully as faithful citizens. Fr. Nesti invited Maureen Bacchi, a licensed master social worker with years of experience in the areas of adult faith formation and retreat ministry, to take the lead in developing the material for the program.

“My Catholic faith has always been an important guide for living my life, though I have to say I don’t think I really knew the fullness of that catholic vision, let alone what it meant to participate in shaping the culture out of that vision,” Bacchi said. “This project  has helped me see more clearly how the Holy Spirit, through the body of Christ on earth, continues to seek new ways to bring Christ’s message to the world, especially through cultivating our cultures with the message of Christ’s love.”

Helping catechists and parishioners grow in their ability to cultivate our American culture with the message of Christ’s love is at the core of the Parish Advocacy Program. To guide that process, Bacchi and Fr. Nesti have developed twelve modules, each one dedicated to a theme providing the basis for the dialogue between faith and culture.

The material begins with defining the Catholic worldview, exploring the importance of spreading the Catholic worldview and examining the differing worldview of the American culture. Then, the material goes on to explore skills for a creative dialogue that can help heal the tensions between the Catholic worldview and the American worldview. 

“By the end, we hope to build them a picture,” said Fr. Nesti. “The individual sessions are like the little stones in a mosaic. By the time they get all the modules, they should have built themselves a picture of what’s really at stake – how to live as a Catholic in this culture.”

For now, the CFC is still refining this mosaic. For that reason, the CFC has brought in twenty pilot participants to experience the modules in their current form. All of the participants have a degree of familiarity with the CFC having participated in either the MAFC program or a workshop put on by the CFC.   

For Fr. Nesti, inviting participants with prior knowledge of the CFC was quite intentional.

“We invited these people for two reasons,” said Fr. Nesti. “One, we’ve known them for a long time, and they know what we’re doing here. They understand the mission of the Center, and they are professionals and can give us good critique of how the modules can be improved. Secondly, that they are potential people who will carry this into the parishes.”

The first six sessions with the current pilot participants run from October 19th through November 23rd and the final six sessions take place between January 18th and February 22nd. For more information on the Parish Advocacy Program, please contact the Center for Faith & Culture at 713-942-5066 or cfc@stthom.edu.


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