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Diocesan Assembly will take on timely topic — faith and reason

On any list of reasons people struggle with faith in our time, a perceived conflict with science would have to be high on it.

Organizers of this year’s annual Diocesan Assembly on Oct. 14 are bringing in a speaker to tackle that misconception directly and show that not only is there is no conflict between the Catholic faith on legitimate science, the two are in harmony with each other.

Joseph Miller
Joseph Miller

“We see a barrier to people being won for Christ as seeing a perceived incompatibility between faith and reason, or faith and science, that if people don’t think that faith and science are compatible, they tend to hold back in opening up to the possibility of a relationship with God,” said Liz Hoefferle, who directs the office of catechesis for the Diocese of Duluth. “It puts a barrier in place.”

She said that while this misconception most obviously affects those who reject faith based on it, but it also affects people who are trying to live their faith.

“I actually saw a survey result that showed over half of Christians think there is a conflict between faith and reason,” she said. And in the backand- forth of competing ideas, people bounce back and force and become “hesitant to commit.”

“They want to believe in God, but something gets presented to them in science that makes them doubt,” she said.

This becomes a clear obstacle to becoming an “intentional disciple” — someone who says a wholehearted “yes” to God.

But this is unnecessary.

“The beauty of the Catholic faith is we show the compatibility of the two, that what God has created and how he created it is not in conflict with what he’s revealed,” Hoefferle said. “Sometimes we have to learn more about creation and we have to learn more about what he revealed, but they will be compatible, because he did both.”

Indeed, many Catholics have had influential roles in promoting and advancing science, she said.

The right background

Hoefferle said Joseph Miller, who is the featured speaker at the assembly, is in an ideal position to address this topic. His background is in technology, and he was working in Silicon Valley, where he spent two decades working with successful tech start-ups, when he went through a conversion experience that led him back to school to study theology and philosophy. He has worked with FOCUS, an organization dedicated to evangelizing on college campuses.

So “he really brings that background of science and technology, theology, philosophy, and evangelization all together.” she said.

Hoefferle said Miller aims to show how faith and science fit together. “He focuses on the transcendence, that there is something beyond matter and space and time, that there’s scientific evidence for this by the creation of the universe, the order of creation, and even down to the complexity of cell structure,” she said.

She said Miller also draws on internal evidences — experiences common to humanity — to make the point.

“His overarching premise is that there is proof for the transcendent, that there is proof for something beyond the physical world, beyond physical matter,” Hoefferle said.

This year’s Diocesan Assembly is set for Oct. 14 from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will again be held at Marshall School in Duluth. The event will include talks, prayer time, Mass, and time for fellowship and community. For registration, see the diocesan website at www.dioceseduluth. org or call the Pastoral Center at (218) 724-9111.

— Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross

Miller to speak at White Mass

In addition to his presentation at the Diocesan Assembly, Joseph Miller will also be giving a talk on “The Four Levels of Happiness” at the White Mass Brunch Oct. 15. The White Mass is an annual liturgy honoring the work of physicians and other health care workers. The brunch and Mass are open to all. For registration information, visit


Bishop Sirba’s statement on racism and political violence

Statement from Bishop Paul Sirba, of the Diocese of Duluth, issued Aug. 17:

“I join with Catholic bishops across the country in expressing my horror at the political violence and the use of racist and anti-Semitic symbols and slogans that have occurred in recent days. These things are obviously contrary to our country’s best ideals, and they are completely incompatible with the Christian faith. Our faith presents for us a vision of peace and the common good in which the inherent dignity of every person, each of whom God intentionally made in his own image and loves with an infinite love, is revered and welcomed into our communities. We stand alongside all people of good will who work peacefully for that vision and pray for reconciliation and for all who are victims of this violence.”

Bishops form new body to address ‘sin of racism’ that ‘afflicts’ nation

Saying there is an “urgent need” to address “the sin of racism” in the country and find solutions to it, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has established a new Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism and named one of the country’s African-American Catholic bishops to chair it.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, initiated the committee Aug. 23 “to focus on addressing the sin of racism in our society, and even in our church, and the urgent need to come together as a society to find solutions.”

Bishop George Murry
Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, responds to a question from a Catholic News Service reporter Aug. 23 outside the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops headquarters in Washington. Bishop Murry was responding to questions after being named chair of the U.S. bishops’ new Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

He appointed Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Catholic Education, to chair the new ad hoc committee.

“Recent events have exposed the extent to which the sin of racism continues to afflict our nation,” Cardinal DiNardo said in a statement. “The establishment of this new ad hoc committee will be wholly dedicated to engaging the church and our society to work together in unity to challenge the sin of racism, to listen to persons who are suffering under this sin, and to come together in the love of Christ to know one another as brothers and sisters.”

The naming of members to serve on the new body will be finalized in coming days, the USCCB said in an announcement. It added that the committee’s mandate “will be confirmed at the first meeting, expected very shortly.”

“I look forward to working with my brother bishops as well as communities across the United States to listen to the needs of individuals who have suffered under the sin of racism and together find solutions to this epidemic of hate that has plagued our nation for far too long,” Bishop Murry said in a statement.

“Through Jesus’ example of love and mercy, we are called to be a better people than what we have witnessed over the past weeks and months as a nation. Through listening, prayer and meaningful collaboration, I’m hopeful we can find lasting solutions and common ground where racism will no longer find a place in our hearts or in our society.”

The new ad hoc committee also will “welcome and support” implementation of the U.S. bishops’ new pastoral letter on racism, expected to be released in 2018. In 1979, the bishops issued a pastoral in racism titled “Brothers and Sisters to Us,” in which they addressed many themes, but the overall message then as today was “racism is a sin.”

Creation of a new formal body that is part of the USCCB — formed on the USCCB Executive Committee’s “unanimous recommendation” — speaks to how serious the U.S. Catholic Church leaders take the problem of racism in America today.

It is the first ad hoc committee the bishops have established since instituting the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty in 2011 to address growing concerns over the erosion of freedom of religion in America. The federal governments mandate that all employers, including religious employers provide health care coverage of artificial contraceptives and abortifacients was one of the key issues that prompted formation of the committee.

Chaired by Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, that body was elevated to full USCCB committee status during the bishops’ spring assembly in Indianapolis this past June.

In addition to the Executive Committee’s recommendation, the USCCB said, the decision to initiate the new Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism also was made in consultation with members of the USCCB’s Committee on Priorities and Plans.

The formation of the ad hoc committee also follows the conclusion of the work of the Peace in Our Communities Task Force. The task force was formed in July 2016 by then-Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, who was then USCCB president. He initiated it in response to racially related shootings in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, as well as in Minneapolis and Dallas.

To head it he named Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta, one of the nation’s African-American prelates who was the first black Catholic bishop to be president of the USCCB (2001-2004).

The task force’s mandate was to explore ways of promoting peace and healing around the country. Archbishop Kurtz also wanted the bishops to look for ways they could help the suffering communities, as well as police affected by the incidents.

On Nov. 14, 2016, during the USCCB’s fall general assembly, Archbishop Gregory told the bishops to issue, sooner rather than later, a document on racism.

“A statement from the full body of bishops on racism is increasingly important at this time,” said the archbishop in reporting on the work of the task force.

He said the president of the bishops’ conference and relevant committees need to “identify opportunities for a shorter-term statement on these issues, particularly in the context of the postelection uncertainty and disaffection.”

He also urged prayer, ecumenical and interfaith collaboration, dialogue, parish-based and diocesan conversations and training, as well as opportunities for encounter.

The bishops’ 1979 pastoral, now in its 19th printing, declared: “Racism is a sin: a sin that divides the human family, blots out the image of God among specific members of that family, and violates the fundamental human dignity of those called to be children of the same Father.”

— Catholic News Service

USCCB response to Charlottesville protests

August 12, 2017

WASHINGTON—Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, of Galveston-Houston, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued the following statement in response to the violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia that has left one person dead and at least 19 injured.

Cardinal DiNardo’s full statement follows:

“On behalf of the bishops of the United States, I join leaders from around the nation in condemning the violence and hatred that have now led to one death and multiple injuries in Charlottesville, Virginia. We offer our prayers for the family and loved ones of the person who was killed and for all those who have been injured.  We join our voices to all those calling for calm.

“The abhorrent acts of hatred on display in Charlottesville are an attack on the unity of our nation and therefore summon us all to fervent prayer and peaceful action.  The bishops stand with all who are oppressed by evil ideology and entrust all who suffer to the prayers of St. Peter Claver as we approach his feast day.  We also stand ready to work with all people of goodwill for an end to racial violence and for the building of peace in our communities.

“Last year a Task Force of our Bishops Conference under Archbishop Wilton Gregory proposed prayers and resources to work for unity and harmony in our country and in our Church.  I am encouraging the bishops to continue that work especially as the Feast of St. Peter Claver approaches.”

Registration open Diocesan Assembly, adult faith formation


Registration is open for two upcoming opportunities to build your faith and grow as a disciple: The 12th annual Diocesan Assembly Oct. 14 and a diocese-wide Adult Faith Formation program launching in November.

assembly graphicFor the assembly, this year’s speaker is Joe Miller, executive director of the Magis Center of Reason & Faith. Miller will show the compatibility between faith and science, demonstrating the scientific evidence for God’s existence and showing how ultimate happiness is found only through a personal relationship with God.

According to a recent study, “Many youths and young adults who have left the church point to their belief that there is a disconnect between science and religion.” This year’s assembly will help us evangelize a culture in which many people believe that faith and reason are not compatible.

The assembly is open to everyone and offers an opportunity to come together with others from throughout the Diocese of Duluth for a day of learning, prayer, and support. Please forward the invitation to others whom you think may benefit.

The Adult Faith Formation program begins in November and will consist of five sessions (one Saturday per month from November through March) held in each deanery. It will be based around “Symbolon: The Catholic Faith Explained” and will include guidance by a facilitator, small group discussion, and prayerful reflection.

Registration links:


Bishop Paul Sirba: Where do we find beauty? Take the question to prayer

“We give thanks to God whose power is revealed in nature and whose providence is revealed in history”
— Liturgy of Hours, Sunday Week III, Evening Prayer II

Summer, in the 10 counties that make up the Diocese of Duluth, reveals the power and beauty of God. Even before God reveals himself to man in words of truth, God reveals “himself to him through the universal language of creation, the work of his Word, of his wisdom: the order and harmony of the cosmos — which both the child and the scientist discover” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2500).

Bishop Paul Sirba
Bishop Paul Sirba
Fiat Voluntas Tua

God, of course, is more beautiful than the sun, the constellation of stars, and the fragrant rose. His majesty and power is greater than the wind, the waves on the lake, or the thunderstorm.

Beauty speaks its own language. A question was recently posed to me by a dear friend, “Where is beauty in your life?” It is a question I pose to you this summer: Where do you find beauty? I think our reflection on beauty could be fruitful meditation in our prayer. God’s beauty brings healing. It was attributed to St. Teresa of Avila, the Carmelite mystic, that she gave advice to a sister who was feeling the blues, to “go take a walk where the sky is big.” Not only can we be enriched by the beauty of the master artist, but because we have been created in the image of God, we can participate in its expression. Maybe we have little artistic ability, but what we have we can give back to God. We can also support the work of artists. “Man also expresses the truth of his relationship with God the Creator by the beauty of his artistic works” (CCC 2501).

Sacred art, in particular, satisfies our longing for beauty. We can be extravagant with beauty in our church buildings and the celebration of the Divine Liturgy because it gives praise and glory to God, who is worthy of the best we have to offer.

The Magnificat monthly magazine is an example of easy accessible beauty. Not only does the Magnificat make the daily scriptures available to us, but also it is filled with writings from the saints, poetry, and beautiful artwork. I find the descriptions of the great works of art and lesser known ones a welcome read. It has become a place where I find beauty at my fingertips. My gratitude to the inspiration of Dominican Father Peter John Cameron and the staff for this publication.

Nature’s beauty is arresting. How blest we are to be able to live where we do! Do take a few minutes to savor the beauty of God’s creation, to respond to the challenge of Pope Francis to be good stewards of our environment, and to praise God for the gift of the beauty of creation.

Bishop Paul Sirba is the ninth bishop of Duluth.

Pope orders Belgian religious group to stop offering euthanasia to patients

Pope Francis is cracking down on a Belgian Brothers of Charity-run organization, giving the group until the end of August to stop offering euthanasia to patients in their psychiatric centers.

In addition, each of the religious brothers serving on the board of the Brothers of Charity Group, the organization that runs the centers, has been ordered to sign a joint letter to their general superior, Brother Rene Stockman, declaring their adherence to church teaching.

Pope Francis at audience
Pope Francis at the general audience in St. Peter’s Square, April 13, 2016. (Daniel Ibanez/CNA)

Brothers who refuse to sign the letter will face punitive action under canon law, while the group itself is expected to face legal action and could have its Catholic status revoked if it does not change its policy.

The Vatican order, sent at the beginning of August, follows several prior requests that the group drop the policy, which allows doctors to euthanize non-terminal mentally ill patients on its grounds.

In comments to CNA Aug. 10, Brother Stockman said he initially went to the Vatican for help in the spring, when the group, which is a state organization run by the order, decided to change its policy on euthanasia on the grounds that their stance was culturally abnormal.

Since the year 2000, the group has maintained a firm policy against euthanasia and how to cope with requests for it, he said, explaining that as a state organization, they take requests for euthanasia seriously, and try to help the patient regain their desire for life, “knowing of course that someone who is very depressive can have the tendency to ask for euthanasia.”

After doing everything possible to help alleviate any depression present in a patient, if the individual still requests euthanasia — which is legal in Belgium — the brothers would transfer them elsewhere.

“We don’t accept that euthanasia should be done inside our institutes,” Brother Stockman said, noting that this had been the organization’s firm policy until last year, when the group “started to deflect,” claiming that the Catholic position was “unique” in Belgium, where euthanasia is widely accepted, even for children.

The group argued that they had to “adapt,” and so developed a new vision that Brother Stockman said “we could not accept as a congregation.

Despite the fact that all board members are Catholic, and some have high political profiles, in Belgium “secularization is very, very high, very strong,” Brother Stockman said, “so you have to ask yourself what is Catholic still?”

In response to the group’s decision to change the policy, “we said very clearly first of all, for us respect of life must always be absolute,” the superior general said.

However, he said, the group responded that “respect of life is fundamental, but autonomy for the person is on the same level,” and once the two are placed on the same level, “then the autonomy of the patient becomes absolute, and not respect for life.”

Despite meeting resistance from Brother Stockman, the group insisted on implementing its new policy, which went into effect in June for each of the 15 psychiatric centers they run throughout Belgium.

As a response, the general superior went to the Belgian Catholic Bishops Conference and asked that they back him in the debate. When the organization continued to resist, despite pressure from the bishops conference, Brother Stockman took the issue to the Vatican.

He was eventually invited to present the issue before both the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, both of which became involved in investigating the issue.

The doctrinal congregation then promptly drafted a letter reiterating the church’s position on euthanasia and insisted that the group step back into line with doctrine. However, the letter was ignored.

Brother Stockman then received a specific mandate from the Congregation for Consecrated Life “to see that the organization can again be in line” with church teaching.

Part of his mandate is enforcing the ultimatum and gathering the group’s response by the end of August. Brother Stockman said he has not spoken with Pope Francis personally but that it is the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life who conceived the ultimatum and presented it to the pope, who gave it his full support.

Of the three brothers who are members of the organization’s board of trustees — the majority of board consists of laypeople — Brother Stockman said he is still waiting for their answers but is “quite positive about that, I can say that, I think the brothers will conform themselves.”

To ask the brothers to reaffirm their adherence to church teaching is “logical,” he said, because “when you are a religious, then you have to be in line with the church.”

“I know them and they are really under pressure from the whole mentality,” he said, but voiced confidence that they will send the letter without any problems.

As for the organization itself, the general superior said he has been in contact with the board members. “They said they received the letter and that they will discuss again in their board the situation,” he said, adding “I am waiting for the final answer.”

When asked if there was fear that even if the organization does change the policy back, they would be forced by the state to provide euthanasia, Brother Stockman said that thankfully, as of now, institutions can’t be forced, “so I think we also have to use this opening not to do it.”

“If the law changes and they say that institutions have to do euthanasia, then the situation becomes totally different. Then we have to ask ourselves, can we still continue as a Catholic hospital in a certain environment where we are forced to do euthanasia?”

“But until now we have the possibility to refuse euthanasia inside the walls of the institute,” he said.

— Catholic News Agency/EWTN News

Editorial: Making a desert in Belle Plaine

The Caledonian chieftain Calgacus is supposed to have said of the attacking Roman Empire, with its unquenchable desire for conquest, “they make a desert and call it peace.”

The phrase comes to mind with the news that Belle Plaine here in Minnesota has had to withdraw a veterans memorial with a cross on it rather than allow Satanists to make a mockery of such memorials with a “contribution” of their own.

One memorial was created by a local veteran and donated by the Belle Plaine Vets Club and represents values that are a major part of Minnesota’s heritage. The other? It is the antithesis of that heritage and was obviously commissioned for the sole purpose of doing what it did — using a faux equality to render displaying the first memorial so utterly distasteful that it would be removed.

They made a desert and called it peace. No trace of religion, no matter how non-coercive and inoffensive, could be permitted to exist in the public square.

The notion that the ACLU-style account of separation of church and state coming out of the U.S. Supreme Court is inherent in America’s founding and the First Amendment is, to be blunt, a secularist fairy tale.

The idea that a city or state has to have absolute neutrality between religion and irreligion, between expressions on public property that reflect religious belief and expressions that mock it, was alien to U.S. law and practice until the Everson vs. Board of Education decision of 1947. In fact, in the early decades of the United States, there were full-fledged, established religions in some states, and it was perfectly constitutional, even if most people today would not deem it perfectly wise. (And on that score, it’s worth noting that England, for instance, has an established religion to this day, and it’s hardly a theocracy.)

We are often presented with the idea that what we have now represents neutrality, with the government refusing to choose between religious perspectives. This, too, is an increasingly obvious farce. As Archbishop Jose Gomez noted when we was appointed Archbishop of Los Angeles in 2010: “‘Practical atheism’ has become the de facto state religion in America.”

It is this de facto state religion that defines “health care” to mean killing unborn babies and the suffering, that defines the human reproductive system to have nothing to do with human reproduction, that defines “religious freedom” as forcing nuns to pay for other people’s contraception, and on and on. This de facto state religion is happy and eager to impose its norms and standards on anyone who disagrees.

There is no doubt we live in a rapidly secularizing society, one that is increasingly hostile to its own religious heritage. It’s entirely possible that a plurality of Americans want the state religion to be practical atheism.

But then let’s not kid ourselves that it’s all about live-and-let-live, all about freedom, or any of that other nonsense. What we are looking at is a form of conquest that has little room for dissent and every intention of acting as if another way of life never existed.

Ex-Vatican diplomat: U.S., North Korea must return to negotiating table

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The United States and North Korea must return to the negotiating table and focus on improving the quality of life of their people rather than on the might of their advanced weaponry, said a former Vatican diplomat.

In an interview with Vatican Radio Aug. 9, Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, former Vatican representative to U.N. agencies in Geneva, said that “instead of building walls and creating dissidence or admitting the possibility of recourse to violence,” both countries must have a constructive approach that benefits the people.

North Korea mass rally
A view shows a Pyongyang city mass rally Aug. 10 in North Korea’s Kim Il Sung Square. Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, an adviser to the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, says dialogue is needed in the U.S.-North Korea crisis. (CNS photo/KCNA via Reuters)

“To arrive at this point, we need to change, in a lot of ways, the public culture and insist and educate that the way forward is not the way of having the latest military technology, but having an approach of inclusion and participation in building the common good of the global human family,” the archbishop said.

North Korea’s nuclear ambitions have led to further isolation and sanctioning by the international community, leading to a war of words with the United States.

President Donald Trump vowed that if North Korea continued to threaten the U.S., “they will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

Angered by the threat, the North Korean government, led by dictator Kim Jong Un, said it is considering firing nuclear-armed missiles at Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific and home to two U.S. military bases.

The nuclear threat North Korea poses to the region “creates serious difficulties,” Archbishop Tomasi said. However, the U.S. and its allies in the region must continue the path toward an inclusive negotiated solution that places the common good first.

“As the Holy Father insists: The way forward is that of dialogue and of including everyone in negotiating — accommodating as far as possible — the participation of all the populations and their governments in the search of the common good and of ways of improving the quality of life of the people,” the archbishop told Vatican Radio.

The threat of nuclear war has also stoked concerns in South Korea, which has technically been at war with its northern neighbor since fighting ended in 1953.

In Seoul, South Korea, in a message to Catholics for the Aug. 15 feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung asked the faithful to pray for Mary’s intercession for peace in the Korean peninsula.

The Asian Catholic news agency reported Cardinal Yeom also called for an end to the north’s nuclear ambitions and a negotiated settlement. He also asked Catholics in the country to pray the rosary “for the conversion of sinners and for peace in the world.”

“For the safety and the future of all Koreans, North Korea should come to the discussion table and abandon their nuclear weapons,” he said.

— By Junno Arocho Esteves \ Catholic News Service

Liz Hoefferle: Diocesan free trial means August is a great time to try FORMED

The “New Evangelization” calls us to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world with “new ardor,” “new methods,” and “new expression.” This means sharing the message of God’s love with ever greater enthusiasm and relevancy. It calls for finding ways to make the message heard in the midst of our fast-paced, technology-driven society. And it requires delivering the message in a way that addresses the challenges of today’s culture.

Many resources are available to help us do this. But there is one, in particular, that has proven to be of great benefit throughout our diocese. This online resource is accessible through any computer or digital device, and it provides unlimited access to hundreds of Catholic programs, movies, audios, and e-books. It is called FORMED and is found at

New methods
Liz Hoefferle
Liz Hoefferle
Handing on the Faith

The development of such a digital platform, which provides people throughout the world easy access to high-quality Catholic resources, is a great example of using “new methods” for evangelization.

A person sitting at home with a computer, a parent waiting at a child’s sports practice with an electronic tablet, a student away at college with a smart phone, or a family gathered around a smart TV are all able to access these great resources.

FORMED provides many opportunities for a person to grow in the Catholic faith, such as going “on location” with Bishop Robert Barron in his “Catholicism” series, where viewers can take in the beautiful Catholic churches and shrines in Europe, walk in the footsteps of our Lord in the Holy Land, or encounter Jesus in the face of the poor on the streets of Calcutta or New York City. The “Symbolon” series uses Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and personal testimony to help answer such questions as “Why do we need the church?” or “What happens when we die?” Weekly reflections in “Breaking Open the Word” help prepare for the Sunday Mass readings and provide ideas for applying the Word of God to our lives throughout the week.

Inspirational movies tell the stories of holy people, both past and present, whom the church holds up as role models and intercessors. Seeing how St. Augustine’s long search for happiness and meaning was finally fulfilled when he opened his ears to God’s voice and his heart to God’s grace or understanding how St. Maximilian Kolbe’s continual “yes” to God prepared him to make the ultimate sacrifice of his own life encourages us to live as more faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.

Digital audio recordings answer common questions about the Catholic faith on topics such as confession, purgatory, Mary, and the pope. Modern- day conversion stories include Father Donald Calloway’s amazing journey from convicted, drug-addicted gang member to Catholic priest and Dr. Allen Hunt’s 15-year journey from megachurch pastor to reception into full communion with the Catholic church.

Materials are available for all ages, including videos and books introducing children to the truths of the Catholic faith and the lives of the saints. Audios for young adults provide encouragement in chaste living, show the relevance of faith within a secular culture, and teach about the true meaning of love.

These and many more great resources can be used by individuals, in small study groups, or within parish programs and ministries, such as religious education, Catholic schools, adult faith formation, and marriage or baptism preparation.

A tool

An online platform such as FORMED is a tool that can be extremely helpful in communicating God’s truth, reflecting his beauty, and bearing witness to the workings of his grace. However, it is important to remember that a tool is not an end in itself but a means to help accomplish an end.

In the early years of Christianity, the Gospel was communicated by persons who traveled by foot or horseback visiting homes, synagogues, or other public places. With the invention of the printing press, the written word became more widely and consistently communicated. As technology continues to develop, the quality and accessibility of communication methods continues to improve. Today, we can bring some of the best Catholic presenters and teachers right into our own living rooms and classrooms.

However, two extremes should be avoided in an approach to technology. One extreme is to think that a video will do all of the work in converting a person to Jesus Christ, eliminating the need for human interaction. The other extreme is to reject technology simply because it is technology.

Effectively utilizing technology requires finding ways to use it in conjunction with the personal “accompaniment” called for by Pope Francis. My husband and I recently had a great experience of participating in the “33 Days to Morning Glory” — a preparation for consecration to Mary — with a small group of people in the home of a friend. The opportunity for discussion, along with the accountability of meeting as a group, really enhanced the excellent video segments of the program.

In addition to parish-wide programming, small groups of adults could gather for a study in a home. A person could accompany a friend by suggesting material to watch and then meet for discussion. Couples preparing for marriage can be asked to watch video segments and then discuss with their coordinator. The opportunities are endless.

How do I get FORMED?

Over half of the parishes in our diocese currently have a subscription to FORMED, which allows free access to all parishioners and persons living within its parish boundaries. You can call your parish office, check your bulletin, or go to your parish’s website to get your parish code, which is required the first time you sign in.

If your parish currently does not have a subscription to FORMED, you have the opportunity to check it out for free throughout the month of August. Our entire diocese has a free 30-day trial of FORMED. To access this, go to and log in using e-mail and password formed17.

In addition to a parish subscription, FORMED also offers individual subscriptions, which can be used by individuals or families within their homes.

Liz Hoefferle is director of religious education for the Diocese of Duluth.