LYONS — In late October approximately 20 adults and two children gathered at St. Michael’s Church to learn how to better answer God’s call to serve their neighbors. They learned to look beyond their own social circles and find people who may live near them but may feel as isolated as though they were a million miles away.
It’s easy to accidentally overlook these people, said Mercy Sister Janet Korn, social-justice awareness coordinator for diocesan Catholic Charities. She herself nearly missed several opportunities to help people in need, she noted before sharing the story of a woman she met on a beach one cold day.
Sister Korn was sitting among the sand dunes praying when she noticed another woman nearby. Sister Korn asked the woman where she lived, and the woman pointed to a shrub about 30 yards away and said she lived there with her three children. When asked, the woman told Sister Korn that shellfish and seaweed were the only things the family had eaten in the past few days. Sister Korn talked with the woman and gave her some money, but the experience shook her up.
“I was so absorbed in my own things that I could have missed the opportunity that was them. It was right in my face and I could have missed it,” Sister Korn said. “Don’t you think that happens to us in life? Pray for the grace to know where we are called to help.”
“Who Is the Neighbor I Am Called to Serve?” was the second of three intergenerational faith-formation programs planned by Sister Catherine Gibbons, faith-formation coordinator for St. Michael’s, St. John the Evangelist Parish in Clyde and St. Patrick Parish in Savannah. The Sister of St. Joseph wanted the programs to be open to Catholics of all ages because religious education is not just for children or their parents.
“As far as religious education is concerned, we say that the parents are the primary educators of their children. In many situations, multigenerational family members are also involved,” Sister Gibbons said.
In many families, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins are almost as involved in a child’s life as the parents are, she added. While these relatives may share physical responsibilities with parents, such as caring for the children after school, they are also partially responsible for the children’s spiritual development, Sister Gibbons said.
Sister of St. Joseph Karen Dietz, diocesan coordinator of sacramental catechesis, spoke about sacramental preparation at Sister Gibbon’s first intergenerational faith-formation session. During the October program, Sister Korn encouraged participants to be more aware of local individuals who may feel isolated, such as migrant farm workers or homebound people.
Media attention in recent months has been largely focused on large-scale natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina, and the ensuing relief efforts. While these relief efforts are necessary and very worthwhile, Catholics are also called to seek out and serve those suffering right under their noses, Sister Korn said.
“You can always see there’s a need. You don’t have to go far to do this. There are lots of things that you can do right here, and you just have to be willing to connect to them,” Sister Gibbons added.
The third intergenerational faith-formation session will focus on vocations and takes place from 3 to 5 p.m. Jan. 29 at St. John’s School in Clyde. The program will feature seven speakers who will talk about five different types of vocations.
Father Scott Kubinski, pastor of All Saints Parish in Lansing, Holy Cross Parish in Dryden and St. Anthony Parish in Groton, will talk about priestly ministry, while Deacon John Tomandl, minister at Auburn Correctional Facility, will talk about the permanent diaconate. Mercy Sister Kathleen Wayne and Sister of St. Joseph Donna Del Santo, vocations directors for their respective congregations, will speak about life and ministry within religious congregations in the 21st century.
Many people only think of priests or women religious when they think of vocations, but in reality there are many different vocations, and each of us is called to our own, unique one, Sister Gibbons said. Mary Ann Fackelman, program coordinator at the Borromeo Prayer Center in Greece, will talk about her vocation and experience as a single, lay adult working with the church. Greg and Elena Kiley, who belong to St. John’s, have six children and have been married for more than 30 years. The pair will speak about the vocation of marriage.
The topic of vocation lends itself to an intergenerational program because the support of family members is crucial to someone discerning a vocation, Sister Gibbons said.
“Kids don’t become priests or pursue another vocation unless they have family interest and support,” she said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The vocations program is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Sister Catherine Gibbons at 315/923-3941 or email@example.com.