Seminarians stand outside a church in Lviv, Ukraine. (photo: John E. Kozar/CNEWA)
Msgr. John Kozar visits St. Anne’s Orphanage in Trichur, India. (photo: John E. Kozar/CNEWA)
One of the most abiding forms of support and accompaniment that CNEWA provides to the Eastern Catholic churches is in the realm of faith formation. This extends to the formation of seminarians, of men and women preparing to take vows as religious and to the laity.
For decades, CNEWA’s donors have made a powerful impact on seminarians — helping to educate and train future priests. Most of the Eastern Catholic seminaries where CNEWA serves are supported in varying degrees thanks to the generosity of our donors. For some, our support makes a tremendous difference. It may mean feeding hungry seminarians, or just keeping the doors open. For others, this support means improving the faculty, hiring more teachers or making modest renovations to the facilities. But for all, it represents an investment in the good health and future of the church.
Religious women, meanwhile, receive financial assistance from CNEWA from their first days in the novitiate. Although the subsidy may be modest, it represents a commitment of faith and hope — a sign of solidarity with these women as they formally embark on their journey to serve Christ as vowed religious.
And then there is the great and growing resource of the laity. The faith formation of the laity is often overlooked, with more attention given to those who are preparing for the priesthood or religious life. But it is vitally important to support the lay faithful, especially in places where it is not always possible to commission a priest or religious. CNEWA continues to place great importance on lay catechetical programs and adult faith enrichment and mission-sending initiatives that challenge the faithful to share their faith with those who have never been exposed to it.
From my own experience, I can tell you some of the most exciting and dynamic missionary activity I have been privileged to witness involved a wonderful collaboration among “teams” of clergy, religious sisters and lay missionaries. Together, they bring the Good News of Jesus to very remote areas, sharing it with those hungry to meet Jesus and to experience his love and mercy. None of this would be possible without good faith formation.
I remember visiting a remote tribal area in India. After navigating a long footpath and reaching some thatched huts, I received one of the best welcomes I have ever had. Seated on the ground all around me, and led by one of the sisters who lived with them, these villagers made the sign of the cross and haltingly said the Our Father in their language. What a beautiful welcome and what a beautiful profession of faith — Catechism 101! This was faith formation at its most basic.
We as Catholics are at our best when we appreciate our deep personal connection with Jesus, when we carry in our hearts his command to “love one another” and are willing to share this with others. This is a simple description of evangelism; but without good formation there is little evangelization that is effective.
Faith formation and catechesis do not translate easily into “news” stories. Nor do they make compelling copy. They are, however, vitally important in nourishing the church as she serves the world.
CNEWA accompanies the church in areas scarred by war, oppression, suffering and persecution. Without CNEWA’s abiding commitment to and investment in faith formation, the outreach activities of the Eastern Catholic churches would be ineffective, shallow and hollow. Our commitment to faith formation is our commitment to helping women and men, young and old, live out that grand commandment of Jesus and to help heal a broken world in his name.
Please remember in your prayers all the souls we accompany on their journey to know Christ more intimately, as they seek to be formed in their faith. And be assured that, as you pray for them, they are praying, as well, for you.