The diocesan synod of the early 1990s — which convened Catholics from around the diocese to develop priorities for implementation — “had a lot of impact on me,” Alene Goodman recalled.
Indeed, a look at Goodman’s body of work reveals the depth of that impact.
Emphasis on lifelong faith formation emerged as a top priority from the synod process. Since then Goodman, who served as a synod delegate, has prioritized that ideal with a creative flair to her ministry.
Goodman is the faith-formation director for All Saints Parish in Corning/Painted Post. Whereas children’s faith formation and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults have been ongoing programs over her 21-year tenure, Goodman also has led the creation of faith-sharing, discussion and/or social groups for men, women, singles and young adults.
These associations generally form based on existing needs. For instance, the current women’s group evolved from the former “Living Single” gatherings that drew nearly all women. A young-adult group has come and gone in recent years, yet Goodman said “it would be wonderful” if enough people wished to resurrect it.
In addressing the needs of middle-aged parishioners, Goodman, 51, has sought to increase discussion opportunities on such issues as empty-nest syndrome; caring for aging relatives; financial planning; and how to deal with family members who no longer attend church.
“Often we assume that folks over 40 are autonomous in their own spiritual development and they do not need the support and guidance of their community. Offering a ministry to these individuals is vital to the health of our parish,” Goodman wrote in a 2007 parish bulletin article.
It’s not unusual for Goodman to form groups and then delegate leadership to participants — which, she quipped, was a natural evolution for men’s fellowship. She encourages participants to set themes as well as the setting, be that a parish facility or local restaurant.
“I can design (the group), and it might be what I think they want, but it’s not always what they need,” Goodman said, adding that formulation of groups often stems from parishioners’ requests: “I never say no to people.”
Goodman pointed out that Catholic adults were actually called to lifelong faith formation when they were baptized, and that taking part in these parish programs help them “come to an awareness of what their baptism means to them.” Regardless of the ministry’s makeup, Goodman said that it’s vital for her to keep reaching out, based on her belief that Catholics of all ages yearn to grow in their faith but don’t always have parish-based opportunities to build into their schedules.
“If you’re in faith formation, you have to be family friendly. Families are very busy and they need assistance. Otherwise you’re just going to lose them,” Goodman stated.
For Catholics who do drift away, Goodman maintains an open invitation to RCIA meetings because she feels such settings allow adults to rediscover their faith alongside people who are just beginning in it. This approach also helps counter the stereotype that learning and deepening one’s faith should only apply to young people, she added.
“I think we have to work on language. People still say CCD and religious education, where this diocese has adopted (the term) faith formation,” Goodman remarked, adding that although education is certainly a part of the growth process, the words “faith formation” equally emphasize the importance of Catholics embracing their spirituality.
“They have to be in love with Jesus to get to the academic,” she said.Tags: Faith Formation