Deb Amato: Helping people have 'An encounter with Jesus'

Witness to Hope
Cari Ann DeLamielleure-Scott
October, 2016

Faith formation. Most of us remember attending Sunday School and catechism classes during our early years. In fact, it’s a staple for every Catholic child.

While parishes continue to offer these classes, the foundation for one’s faith starts in the home.

But, what happens when the families are not prepared?

“We have a couple of generations of people who have not been well catechized. Now, they are raising children, and they’re not really feeling well-equipped to answer questions and be part of the formation process of their children,” says Deb Amato, chairperson for the Department of Evangelization and Lay Formation for the Diocese of Lansing. “We are recognizing we need to step into that.”

Through the diocesan-wide Witness to Hope campaign, $2.7 million will be used for faith formation for adults and youths. These funds will be able to provide each parish in the diocese with resources, including media and online material.

An example is FORMED.org, which is a one-stop shop for all your Catholic content, including movies, e-books, CDs and study programs. Produced by Augustine Institute, in conjunction with Ignatius Press, Lighthouse Catholic Media and others, FORMED.org allows parishioners to sit in the comfort of their home and grow in their faith, Deb explains.

“People are hungry,” she says about parishioners wanting to grow in their faith. In addition to these materials providing faith formation, they are also allowing people to have an encounter with Jesus, she adds.

With the subscription to FORMED.org, every parish will receive an access code, which is then shared with parishioners. But what is great about this tool isn’t just that the material can be accessed anywhere; it’s that it can be used for evangelizing, Deb says.

“I can share a movie or CD with one of my Catholic family members who have fallen from the faith,” she explains. “It’s not just head knowledge. The material really wants to engage the whole person and help people have an encounter with Jesus.”

In addition, the material can be used in the parishes to help with ministries. The Beloved series, for example, is designed for marriage preparation, and Symbolon: The Catholic Faith Explained was developed for use with the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.

Deb says it’s time for the parishes and parishioners to “come into the 21st century” and take advantage of state-of-the-art technology.

“Let’s do it! Let’s use this stuff, instead of maybe just opening a book,” she says. “Let’s use the technology that’s available to us to do some of our ministries.”

Because the Church is sensitive to cultural diversity, the material is also available in Spanish.

“It’s a challenge for some of our parishes because they don’t have Spanish-speaking priests or lay ministers, but they do have Spanish-speaking parishioners. This is a way for us to help them,” she says.

Deb says that the Witness to Hope campaign is necessary because, at $1,600 per parish for one year, subscriptions are not cheap. However, while it sounds like a lot of money, the material is made available to hundreds of thousands of people.

“It’s a lot of money, and (for) some of our parishes, that’s huge when they look at their budget. For some of them, their religious education budget is only $4,000-$5,000 for the year … Money will not be a deterrent for any parish who wants to have this,” she says.