By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic staff – September 15, 2017
ORLANDO | Beginning this September, diocesan teachers and catechists have a new program available to help them become “faith fit,” so that they can more effectively teach the faith to their students. The Faith Fit Enrichment Program is an online certification and enrichment program that will help religious educators teach and live the light of Christ.
“All parishes are invited to be certified and the bishop’s expectation is that all catechists be working toward certification and that they be participating in ongoing enrichment because that is a part of being healthy in our faith,” said Isabel Fernandez, director of mission effectiveness at the San Pedro Spiritual Development Center in Winter Park “That is why it is under the umbrella of the Faith Fit program (taking care of your mind, body and soul). You want to maintain physical and psychological health, but you also want to maintain a strong development in your knowledge about your faith and your own enrichment. We all need to keep those muscles healthy.”
“Ongoing faith formation is necessary in order to teach and live the Light of Christ,” said Bishop John Noonan. “You must know what we believe as a faith-filled people of God. You must be able to share the Good News so that others will see your good deeds and will also want to do the same. In this way, everything that you are glorifies our heavenly Father.”
The previous certification program required in-person workshops, but the majority of Faith Fit Enrichment is completed online to make it more accessible for people and give some more options to grow the program and give people different ways of continuing beyond certification.
The program is structured with three levels: Foundations 1 and 2 and the third component: ongoing enrichment. Completion of the first two levels will provide certification and the third level will allow educators to continue their growth. Those who have already completed certification in the past will not be required to recertify, however Fernandez said that the hope is that they will continue their personal growth through the enrichment courses. One example is a course in development on catechesis with children who have special needs.
“The program gives us the ability to help the catechist find things that are more particular to them,” explained Fernandez. “We can move beyond the basic certification to more specialization. We are looking to have some courses tailored to some of the needs we see out there in parishes and the third enrichment phase lets us be creative and responsive to what’s going on,” she said, adding that the diocese hopes to develop some of their own courses in the future.
One of the concerns was that by going online the program would be isolating, however, a retreat component will bring together those participating in the program and help form community.
“The retreats are important to incorporate because it gives people an opportunity to come face to face, share and reflect together; and to process some of the things they’ve been learning as they’ve been doing the courses online,” explained Fernandez. “It honors that sense of community and being part of the body of Christ in some physical way. This ensures that folks are coming together and being formed in their faith as a community of faith.”
“If there were a motto for the program, it would be ‘Equipping the saints to do their work’,” said Fernandez. “In the spirit of that command and instruction from St. Paul, our job at the diocese is to give people what they need to do and depth so they can figure out what the people they are ministering to need. The only way they can do that is to have it yourself. You can’t give what you don’t have. It’s about more of a personal enrichment for the teacher and catechist in their own faith so that they can take the material they’re working with and go beyond education and into formation and inspiration.”
To learn more about the Faith Fit Enrichment program, visit: www.faithfitenrichment.org