A venerable institution that has helped thousands learn more about their faith is taking an even bigger step into Missouri’s Catholic parishes and families.
The Knights of Columbus Missouri State Council’s Religious Information Bureau (R.I.B.) is now helping the state’s four dioceses pay for programs that help form lifetime disciples.
The new R.I.B. motto, aimed at Knights and fellow parishioners alike, is “Learn Your Faith. Grow Your Faith, Live Your Faith.”
In the Jefferson City diocese, a $49,150 grant will cover the cost of subscriptions for every parish to the Franciscan University at Home online faith-formation program.
The program offers a wealth of online workshops and other learning materials for Catholics of all ages, produced by the world-renowned catechetics faculty of Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio.
The grant will also support the “Totus Tuus” weeklong summer faith-enrichment program for grade school and high school students in parishes throughout the diocese.
It will also help cover the cost of the Parish Coaching Cohort, a Catholic organization that helps small groups of parishes in the diocese work together to evaluate and improve the structures and methods they use to stay connected with families and young people and promote discipleship in everyday life.
“This grant will support some of our most successful programs and initiatives that are making a difference in parish communities,” said John DeLaporte, director of youth ministry and religious education for the diocese.
Each of the programs embraces innovative techniques for supporting catechesis, evangelization and growth, he said.
Helping share the faith locally
Franciscan At Home is an online learning platform that provides catechetical instruction and ministry training for people who serve in faith-formation ministries.
It also provides online learning for adults seeking to grow in faith and knowledge.
“This program seeks to serve Christ and His Church by forming those Catholics entrusted with the formation of others,” Mr. DeLaporte stated.
By blending online learning with guidance from trained mentors in each parish, the program helps people learn to be competent sharers of the faith, while building community and relationships.
The workshops are designed to complement and supplement diocesan formation and continuing education programs, Mr. DeLaporte noted.
They can be used in adult faith formation, sacrament preparation, the initiation process, clergy enrichment, and in many other areas of parish life.
“This will provide access to high quality content, and help facilitate faith-sharing and community at the local level,” said Mr. DeLaporte.
Franciscan University at Home materials will be made available to the first 20 to 30 parishes following a training session for mentors in late 2019 or early 2020.
Access for the rest of the diocese will follow soon thereafter.
The Parish Coaching Cohort is aimed at building healthy, vibrant and welcoming parish communities.
“Good youth and family ministry cannot succeed without such a community,” Mr. DeLaporte noted.
Participating parishes work together to answer important questions about evangelizing and ministering to young people and families in ways that are most relevant to their parish community.
Also of interest to young people is the Knights’ support for Totus Tuus.
This week-long parish catechetical program helps parents and parishes evangelize and catechize young people by providing a fun, faith-filled discipleship-forming experience for those in grades 1 through 12.
Mr. DeLaporte said Totus Tuus is one of the most popular youth programs in this diocese, and the demand continues to grow.
The program is concerned “not only with teaching the faith, but also igniting the hearts of the missionaries and the young people they encounter,” he noted.
More than 1,000 children and teens in 28 parishes took part in Totus Tuus last summer, facilitated by three missionary teams made up of faith-filled college students and seminarians from across the country.
Even more young people are enrolled in this year’s offering.
Heal, build and strengthen
The Missouri Knights expect to raise $285,000 for the R.I.B. this year.
The Knights invited each diocese to submit a detailed grant proposal to the state council and Columbian Charities, which approved the grants.
Video and printed materials for each of the sponsored programs will acknowledge the Knights’ sponsorship and assistance.
Brian Ziegler, the Missouri Knights’ new R.I.B. director, said the goal is “to help everyone grow stronger in their faith, and to get people back to the Church who have fallen away.”
Since the Knights of Columbus’s founding in 1882, the order’s members have been committed to charity and to helping priests and bishops share the Gospel.
“That’s why we’re doing this,” said Mr. Ziegler. “We’re trying to build-up Catholic households, where young people grow up practicing their faith and learning about God and what it means to be Catholic.”
Each member of the Knights will be encouraged to lead by example, making the best use of these materials to lead their families and others to Christ, he said.
Knights councils and individual members throughout the state support the work of the R.I.B., which for almost 80 years provided free courses through the Catholic Home Study Service in partnership with the Vincentian priests and brothers in Perryville.
Many of the materials were developed by the late Vincentian Father Oscar Lukefahr, a former state chaplain for the Knights and frequent contributor to The Catholic Missourian.
After reevaluating the program, the Vincentians decided last November to end their affiliation with the R.I.B. in order to invest more energy in preaching parish missions.
Outgoing state R.I.B. Promotions Director Jerry Herbert said that while the Knights-Vincentian partnership was immensely fruitful, the change presents new opportunities to work with several other organizations in evangelizing Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
“Today there are issues that we, as lay leaders, can dedicate with our time and resources to help heal, build and strengthen our Church,” Mr. Herbert recently wrote to the state’s 43,000 Knights.
“Our goal is to bring those who are lost back to the Church, especially our youth,” he said.
Engaging a new generation
Speaking to a large group of Knights from throughout Missouri this spring at their state convention in Jefferson City, Mr. DeLaporte noted that many of the time-tested ways the Church went about attracting and engaging young people and their families are no longer working.
“We need new models and new approaches to engage and evangelize a new generation of young disciples,” he said.
These programs do just that.
“Each has something unique about them that is proving effective in passing on the faith and growing disciples for Christ,” he stated.