Diocesan farewell to Mona Goodman: reflecting on the history and the impact of Lay Formation in our diocese
By Kiply Lukan Yaworski
Mona Goodman reflected on the history and impact of Lay Formation at her diocesan farewell celebration Sept 7 at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon.
“Who gets to journey with God’s people? Who gets to walk with others in their faith journey? Who gets to learn and be formed and transformed by the people of God? I did,” Goodman said, thanking God for her time journeying with fellow disciples in the Lay Formation program.
A diocesan coordinator of the program since 2008, Goodman is moving to Comox, B.C. with her husband Lyle. For the past month she has been mentoring her successors, Blair and Jennifer Carruthers, who are now sharing the Lay Formation coordinator position in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon.
Colleagues, friends and lay formation alumni from across the diocese gathered to bid farewell to Goodman at the event that opened with Mass celebrated by Diocesan Administrator Rev. Kevin McGee, who was joined at the altar by a number of priests from across the diocese.
“I think that joy – joyfully giving thanks to the Father – is the hallmark of a Christian,” said McGee. “Someone who has been encountered by divine mercy; a person who knows the presence of God, who brings us to God, who brings us to freedom. I think this is what Mona has represented so well as a teacher whose heart goes out to those who have gone through the Lay Formation program.”
Blake Sittler, diocesan director of pastoral services, was the MC for the program that followed, reading messages sent by former Saskatoon bishop Archbishop Donald Bolen of Regina, and Archbishop Murray Chatlain of Keewatin-LePas, thanking Goodman for her service.
The program also included a presentation by retired Lay Formation coordinator Kathy Hitchings, who worked with Goodman from 2008 to 2011.
“Mona has been an insightful and visionary leader of the Lay Formation program, a sensitive and gentle spiritual companion to all who come, a true team player, and last but not least a very dear friend to me and to so many,” said Hitchings.
“To know Mona is to share a brilliant window into God’s energy flowing through creation,” she added.
“Mona is a mystic for our times, able to connect at the heart with anyone seeking God,” she said, describing Mona’s gift for challenging disciples to move from their head to their heart in their faith journeys. “We know that is a necessary journey in becoming the compassion of Jesus.”
Bishop Emeritus Gerald Wiesner, OMI, one of the original founders of the program launched in the diocese in 1987, and a long-time presenter, also spoke of Goodman’s contributions, describing her commitment to faith education, to studying theology, to leading the Lay Formation program and completing the Spiritual Direction Formation program. “Mona is a good example for all of us,” he said, describing the Christian vocation as a vocation to the apostolate.
“Each one of us as baptized persons is to continue the mission and the message of Jesus. Vatican II is strong in its teaching,” he said. “The Church teaches very strongly and clearly that ongoing training is needed on the part of all of us in order that our apostolate be effective…. Each individual person must be a witness before the world to the resurrection and life of Jesus.”
In response, Goodman reflected on the history of the Lay Formation program and its impact in the diocese.
“Over 30 years ago Bishop Gerry Wiesner, Gisele Bauche, Sr. Cecile Fahl, and Fr. Don Hamel came to Bishop Mahoney with a response to Pope John Paul IIs request that the formation of lay people should be among the priorities of every diocese,” she said.
“Their vision and trust in God shaped the Lay Formation program to empower the laity of our diocese to know and live out their baptismal call as priest prophet and shepherd king,” said Goodman. “We are all called to be Church and we are all called to live it out in the world.”
She recalled the gifts shared by previous coordinators of the Lay Formation program, which began as a diocesan program, and later branched out to include a Ukrainian Catholic eparchial stream, and then an Aboriginal stream in a partnership between the three dioceses of Saskatoon, Prince Albert and Keewatin-LePas.
“The previous Lay Formation coordinators have been guiding lights on my path,” said Goodman, describing the first diocesan coordinator the late Sr. Cecile Fahl, SMS, – as a visionary. “She created a process that formed people in community, prayer and learning. She encouraged the people in this diocese to know God and to be the face of God here, now.”
Bill Loran and his wife Ann took over from Fahl for a time, noted Goodman, recalling how even 18 years later, the couple remembered the people they served and stayed in touch with them. “That’s Lay Formation,” she said.
“Kathy and Ivan Hitchings began in 1998. Kathy was the paid coordinator… and (her husband) Ivan came along for the ride,” she said.
“A year later, Louise Gantefoer came on board, and what a team they were. Their laughter and camaraderie, attention to detail and love for God’s people was infectious,” described Goodman. Later, Donna Donaldson (now Donna Kristian) worked with Hitchings as diocesan coordinator. “Donna was very supportive and helped me to see the strength of the program and how transformative it can be for people,” noted Goodman.
“It was Kathy’s gentle presence and humble heart that influenced me the most. She fostered the vision of church that was formed from the program’s inception: we are church. Collaboratively we share our gifts to be God’s church in our homes, our communities and in the world.”
Goodman described how Sr. Pat Lacey and Sr. Bonnie Komarnicki weaved the eparchial stream into the Lay Formation program beginning in 1999. “Then Sr. Bonnie and Sr. Marijka (Konderewicz), diligently and conscientiously continued working alongside, forming and deepening the eparchial presence,” she said. “Divine Liturgy, Forgiveness Vespers, the Great Water Blessing, (and) Church traditions gave us an Eastern perspective and we deepened our journey in God together.”
A First Nations/Aboriginal dialogue group was initiated in 2004 and an Aboriginal stream of Lay Formation “flowed out of that conversation,” said Goodman. Vivian Whitehawk, Ann Lafleur, Irene Sharp, and Debbie Ledoux, were among the coordinators of the Aboriginal stream, bringing in the richness of Aboriginal world views, tipi teaching, medicine wheel and the blanket experience – “all teachings that opened my heart more deeply to the Aboriginal people and our beautiful Creator God,” Goodman said.
“Our Aboriginal stream participants drive from Keewatin-Le Pas, Prince Albert and Saskatoon,” she noted, recalling how coordinators also drove up to communities such as Pelican Narrows, Sandy Bay, Beauval, La Ronge, Buffalo Narrows and Prince Albert to meet people and invite their participation in Lay Formation. “Friendships ensued and have deepened over time,” she said. “Three streams braided together by our merciful God – that’s Lay Formation.”
Goodman noted that Marlene Hansen is now serving as the new Aboriginal Lay Formation coordinator. “Marlene is a 2014 grad from Buffalo Narrows who was so filled with the Spirit that she continued to drive into Saskatoon for another two years (after Lay Formation), taking the Spiritual Direction Formation Program. And now wanting to give back and wanting to empower her people in the North she accepted the position as coordinator of the Aboriginal stream and will drive for another two years. That’s Lay Formation!”
Goodman also paid tribute to dedicated Lay Formation volunteers – program graduates who shared their love of community, prayer and learning, often over many years. She cited the work of such volunteers as George Rolheiser, who graduated from the program in 1991, and then drove from Cactus Lake for another 20 years of service; or Agnes Pelletier, a 1994 Lay Formation grad, who served for 13 years; as well as present-day volunteers Wayne and Joanne Kzyzyk, and eparchial stream volunteers Henry Spilchuk, Bob Friesen and Brian Ander.
“Thank you to the Lay Formation alumni – over 900 people have taken the Lay Formation journey, and where are they now? Serving in church communities, diocesan offices, hospitals, schools, prisons, CWL Clothing Depot, Friendship Inn – sounds like Matthew 25!” said Goodman. “That is where they all are – they are praying and they are sharing their faith stories with one another and with others.”
She described the deep friendships and caring support that have blossomed through the program – citing the quick response from alumni in providing care for a toddler so parents could attend Lay Formation weekends. “As people journey together for two years, friendships develop and deepen,” Goodman stressed. “Someone who had a double knee replacement and was living alone, felt free to ask if she could move in with someone from her class while she recuperated – a friend that was a stranger two years previous. That’s Lay Formation.”
Goodman also paid tribute to “our presenters, theologians, scholars, Lay Formation grads – the people who share their wisdom and knowledge of God while wrapping it up in life experiences, while we connect to the sacred in our every day lives – the calibre of our presenters is amazing.”
She expressed thanks to the bishops and priests of the dioceses of Saskatoon, Prince Albert and Keewatin-Le Pas and the eparchy of Saskatoon “for encouraging and supporting your parishioners on their faith journey – it is all about relationships, it is all about being the face of God’s love in the world. Thank you for all you do in the service of Christ. I really appreciated your support and friendship.”
She also thanked Catholic Pastoral Centre staff, and welcomed new diocesan Lay Formation coordinators Blair and Jennifer Caruthers, parishioners from Holy Family Cathedral. She concluded by expressing her profound love and gratitude to Lyle, her husband of 31 years, saying: “you are my anchor.”
“Who gets to journey with God’s people, to share stories, faith, life prayers, teachings and all those God-anonymous moments? I do. I did,” said Goodman. “Who gives us these opportunities? God does. And God is so good.”
For more information about the History of Lay Formation in its 30th Anniversary Year, including a video conversation between Mona Goodman and program founders Bishop Gerry WIesner, OMI, and Gisele Bauche, see: Lay Formation History