Faith Fit retreat

The first-ever Faith Fit enrichment retreat is in the books at San Pedro Spiritual Development Center. The faithful united as the body of Christ to share their love of God and to expand their knowledge of the teachings of the Catholic Church.

It’s just part of the new diocesan recertification program where school staff, catechists and parishioners can focus on spirituality, theology and ministry. All courses are taken online, but to complete the training students must attend a day-long retreat for fellowship.

“Jesus was a people person, so the retreats make sense,” shared Dr. Isabel Fernandez, director of mission effectiveness for the diocese. “They allow the faithful to share in their journey with others.”During this particular gathering, participants reflected on their own personal faith journey, using St. Peter the Apostle as a guide.

Although Catholic school teachers and administrators must fulfill a continuing education requirement known as Master In-service Points (MIP) – points earned by doing professional development in a number of subject areas, the robust program is available for anyone wanting to deepen their faith. Currently 2,700 people in the diocese are taking courses.

Jane Derenthal, director of religious education at St. Luke Parish in Micco, appreciates the revamped online system. She became DRE in April 2017, and found that none of the catechists were certified due to the large distance from most classes. Remote courses for two consecutive nights were not possible in a parish where the average age is 70. When Derenthal learned of the Faith Fit Enrichment program in April, she signed up immediately and finished Level 1 in one month. “I love the program,” she said. “I found it very scriptural-based, very spiritual with a lot of prayer involved.” St. Luke Parish has since registered all of its catechists and is covering the cost of courses. Participants have one year to complete each level, but can do it faster if they wish. Derenthal says it has been well received.

Henry Fortier, superintendent of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Orlando spearheaded the program after hearing a presentation from the Archdiocese of Chicago, whose format was eventually adopted and modified to serve the needs in Central Florida.

Fernandez explained, “This is set up as a three level system just as the old one – Foundations 1 and 2, followed by an ongoing enrichment level – an open-ended experience where people can refresh their catechesis, training and formation.” Under the old system, once you received your certification you were done. “This gives people an ability to continue even though they are technically certified after the first two levels.”

Segments can be revisited or paused for deeper understanding or clarity, a convenience not previously available. The program also provides additional courses such as dealing with students with special needs in a religious context. “It is very important for them to have the time and the depth within the content of our tradition because, even more than just a subject in our schools, it’s who we are and evangelization is our mission,” noted Fernandez. “St. Paul said our calling is equipping the saints or holy ones to do their work. That is exactly what this is.”

She added, “Much of the content of the previous program is included, but this goes far beyond that. For us, as people who are responding to the call to serve, if we are going to be intentional disciples, we have to be intentional.” The program gives participants the tools to begin a journey of leading others to Christ.

“To form leaders, part of the formation is experience, but also part of the formation is education,” noted Bishop John Noonan. “Giving them ideas, developing new thoughts, but also giving them understanding of what they are being asked to do and teach. It’s an opportunity for people to learn about their faith and deepen their faith, and that is always a blessing—using the latest technology to do something that’s important for us, spreading the Gospel.”

The revised program includes retreats available at San Pedro Center, as a church or school as well as regionally. For more information contact your parish or principal or call 407-671-6322.

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic – June 26, 2018