The Lay Formation program began in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon in the fall of 1987. The name of the program was changed in August 2019 to “Adult Faith Enrichment Program.” That program ended in the spring of 2021. A new model of Adult Faith Formation was launched in the fall of 2021: Proclaim-Awaken-Encounter.
Lay Formation was part of the diocesan response to Saint Pope John Paul’s request that the formation of lay people should be among the priorities of every diocese (Christifideles Laici #57).
The purpose of the program was to help adult Catholics fulfill their baptismal commitment to the mission and ministry of Jesus through a process of formation and faith education.
In 1986 Bishop James Mahoney (right) asked Sr. Cecile Fahl, SMS, Fr. Gerry Wiesner, OMI, Gisele Bauche, and Fr. Don Hamel to design the Lay Formation program as a way to answer the call from Saint Pope John Paul to prioritize the formation of the laity as Christian disciples. The team joined together, collaborating on themes, topics, presenters, live-in components, prayer pieces, and Christian community development.
Program founders Bishop Emeritus Gerry Wiesner and Gisele Bauche reflecting on the beginnings of the Lay Formation program in a video conversation with Mona Goodman, who coordinated the diocesan program from 2008 to 2017:
In addition to the focus on Christian community in the Lay Formation program, the emphasis through the years was on formation rather than specific ministry training. This formation focus enriched the faith of all participants who came to the program, while still providing the impetus to move on to more in-depth ministry training for those who desired it.
The prayer component of the program consisted of commitment to daily prayer and many opportunities for communal prayer on the weekends. Each weekend the participants gathered for the Liturgy of the Hours in the morning and in the evening, and the liturgical seasons were celebrated with special liturgies on Saturday evenings. The weekend concluded with celebration of the Eucharist/Divine Liturgy on Sunday afternoon.
Participants prepared and provided the lay liturgical ministries for Eucharist, lead the Liturgy of the Hours and other prayer services. In addition, participants were empowered to facilitate Small Christian Community prayer groups. Through the program, participants were introduced to various prayer forms and the varied and rich ways of prayer that are part of our tradition, for example, centring prayer, Taizé prayer, Aboriginal prayer traditions, praying with icons and praying with scripture.
At the same time, participants grew in knowledge about the Catholic faith. Highly qualified presenters from Saskatoon and across Canada offered a broad spectrum of theological thought to Lay Formation participants. Areas of study included scripture, theology, morality, liturgy, justice and peace, and spirituality.
New streams of Aboriginal and Eparchial Lay Formation:
In the fall of 1999, participants from the Eparchy of Saskatoon joined with participants from the Diocese of Saskatoon in the first experience of a shared formation program. Roman Catholic and Ukrainian Catholic perspectives were woven together into a program which celebrated the gift of diversity that enriches our common Catholic faith. Separate sessions were scheduled for topics that present the diversity of expression and tradition in areas such as spirituality and liturgy.
Based on the success and the model of the shared diocesan-eparchial program, Lay Formation was expanded to include an Aboriginal Stream in the fall of 2007. Roman Catholics – Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal – as well as Ukrainian Catholics studied common topics together and met in separate streams to explore faith and spirituality in the context of their own traditions and cultures. The bishops of the Prince Albert Diocese, Keewatin-LePas Archdiocese and the Diocese of Saskatoon worked together to provide the program for the Aboriginal people of their three dioceses.
Program Coordinators Timeline:
- 1986 – Sr. Cecile Fahl, SMS, designed the Lay Formation Program, along with Fr. Gerry Wienser, Gisele Bauche and Fr. Don Hamel, at request of Bishop James Mahoney.
- 1987 – Program begins under the direction of the first coordinator Sr. Cecile Fahl, SMS, at Queen’s House Retreat and Renewal Centre in Saskatoon
- 1992 – Bill Loran, Program Coordinator
- 1998 – Kathy Hitchings, Program Coordinator
- 1999 – Louise Gantefoer and Kathy Hitchings, Program Co-coordinators
- 1999 – Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon Stream begins in conjunction with Diocese of Saskatoon Stream
- 1999 – Eparchial Stream Coordinators Sr. Pat Lacey and Sr. Bonnie Komarnicki, SSMI, join the team, serving with Diocesan Stream Coordinators Louise Gentefoer and Kathy Hitchings
- 2001 – Lay Formation program offered at St. Peter’s Abbey
- 2003 – Sr. Marijka Konderewicz, SSMI, and Sr. Bonnie Komarnicki, SSMI, Eparchial Stream Coordinators, with Diocesan Stream Coordinators Kathy Hitchings and Louise Gantefoer (group photo, left to right)
- 2006 – Donna Donaldson (Kristian) and Kathy Hitchings, Program Co-coordinators
- 2007 – Aboriginal Stream begins with participants from Keewatin–LePas, Prince Albert and Saskatoon dioceses
- 2007 – Aboriginal Stream Coordinator Vivian Whitehawk (right) joins the team, serving with Diocesan Stream Coordinators Donna Donaldson (Donna Kristian) and Kathy Hitchings, and Eparchial Stream Coordinators Sr. Bonnie Komarnicki, SSMI, and Sr. Marijka Konderewicz, SSMI.
- 2008 – Mona Goodman, and Kathy Hitchings, and Vivian Whitehawk Program Coordinators; Sr. Bonnie Komarnicki, SSMI, and Sr. Marijka Konderewicz, SSMI, Eparchial Stream Coordinators
- 2009 – Irene Sharp and Ann LaFleur, Aboriginal Stream Coordinators
- 2011 – Kate O’Gorman and Mona Goodman, Diocesan Program Co-coordinators, with Irene Sharp and Ann LaFleur, Aboriginal Stream Coordinators, and Sr. Bonnie Komarnicki, SSMI, and Sr. Marijka Konderewicz, SSMI, Eparchial Stream Coordinators
- 2012 – Debbie Ledoux, Aboriginal Stream Coordinator
- 2014 – Renske Avyert, Aboriginal Stream Coordinator
- 2016 – Mona Goodman, Diocesan Program Coordinator
- 2017 – Jennifer and Blair Carruthers, Diocesan Lay Formation Program Coordinators, with Marlene Hansen, Aboriginal Stream Coordinator, and Sr. Bonnie Komarnicki, SSMI, and Sr. Marijka Konderewicz, SSMI, Eparchial Stream Coordinators
- July 2019 – name change – Adult Faith Enrichment – Fall 2020 – Jenny Peterson coordinator of that program until it ended in the spring of 2021
- Fall 2021 – A new model of adult faith formation was launched in the diocese of Saskatoon: Proclaim-Awaken-Encounter
Volunteers on the Lay Formation team over the years:
Volunteers have included: Anne Loran, Ivan Hitchings, George Rolheiser, Henry Spilchuk, Agnes Pelletier, Irene Sharp, David Schann, Judy Gatin, Bob Friesen, Brian Ander, Wayne and Joanne Kzyzyk.
A strong Lay Formation Alumni Association grew out of the program and graduates were found in all areas of parish and diocesan life.
Parish pastoral leadership teams, diocesan commissions and advisory groups, RCIA, youth ministry, religious education, pastoral visiting, care of the sick and dying, preparation of liturgy, funeral vigils, lay presiding in the absence of the priest, inner city ministry, restorative justice, marriage preparation and enrichment are only some of the areas in which the graduates of Lay Formation have provided ministry – living out their baptismal call to be missionary disciples of Jesus Christ in the world.
What did graduates of the Lay Formation say about their experience?
Graduates repeatedly expressed a profound sense of gratitude, describing a renewed confidence, and a deeper Christian commitment.
They spoke about new and deeper understanding of their Catholic faith. They said that they value the Christian community they encountered at Lay Formation: the deep friendships that are formed are one of the most precious gifts of the experience. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Lay Formation graduates said the prayer and the spirituality that they encounter together in this program deepened their relationship with God. Lay Formation transformed lives.
In 1998, Kathy Hitchings became the coordinator of the Lay Formation program, serving with many team members and volunteers — one long time volunteer was her husband Ivan Hitchings. Kathy retired in 2011.
Jennifer and Blair Carruthers served as coordinators of the diocesan Lay Formation program from Fall 2017 to Spring 2020.
A name change was announced by Bishop Mark Hagemoen in August 2019: the program became known as ADULT FAITH ENRICHMENT. Bishop’s Letter
In August 2020, Jennifer Petersen (email@example.com) was appointed coordinator of the Adult Faith Enrichment program in the diocese of Saskatoon, which was adapted in a number of ways in response to COVID-19 restrictions.
The Adult Faith Enrichment Program of 2019-2021 concluded in June 2021, with a retreat and a commissioning celebration for participants: NEWS ARTICLE (link).
In the fall of 2021 a new model of adult faith formation was launched in the diocese of Saskatoon: Proclaim-Awaken-Encounter with a focus on assisting parishes and individuals to evangelize (PROCLAIM); a series of four-session modules about prayer, the Church/Sacraments, and ministries (AWAKEN); and large group events including a Transform Conference, a diocesan Lenten Retreat, and a “Flourish” speaker and dessert night (ENCOUNTER). Astrid Alas took over from Jennifer Petersen as coordinator in November 2022.