By Katrina Genereux/Staff Writer, OND
As of Oct. 19, every person and parish in the Diocese of Crookston will have access to a free trial of Formed that will last until Dec. 1.
WHAT IS FORMED?
Formed is an online platform providing access to a wide array of faith formation resources and Catholic entertainment.
In addition to resources from the Augustine Institute and Ignatius Press, Formed includes content from apostolates such as: Catholic Answers, Lighthouse Catholic Media, Sophia Institute Press, St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, the Knights of Columbus and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Formed has Bible and catechetical studies, movies and documentaries, cartoons, video presentations, audio presentations and books in downloadable and audio form. It also includes Spanish-language resources.
Currently, 10 parish clusters in the diocese and the Chancery subscribe to the service created by the Augustine Institute and Ignatius Press two years ago.
According to Dan Donaldson, Director of Diocesan and Strategic Partnerships for the Augustine Institute, more than 3,000 parishes in more than 30 dioceses throughout the world have made Formed subscriptions available to their parishioners. Formed recently registered their 400,000th user.
“Our mission at the Augustine Institute is to help people understand, live and share their faith,” Donaldson said. He encourages people to get to know the content and if they listen to, read or watch something they enjoy, to share it with others.
“In that little engagement with somebody, you could change their life,” he said. “We have people that entered the Church, that have gotten baptized, that have become Christians because somebody told them about something [on Formed],” Donaldson said.
Dr. Tim Gray, President and Co-Founder of the Augustine Institute said the goal of Formed is in its name.
“We want to help Catholics become well-formed so that they can understand their faith, they can live it deeper and they can be empowered to share it more easily,” he said.
“We spent a lot of time creating really fantastic catechetical videos for RCIA, for marriage prep, for marriage enrichment and now small groups,” Dr. Gray said. “Bible study groups, men’s groups, RCIA groups can now get together and watch these videos together with leader’s guides and participant’s guides … we want to empower small group and family faith formation.”
The reach of Formed goes well beyond groups meeting at the parish.
“You don’t have to limit catechesis to the church basement,” said Dr. Gray. “The idea is – and this is the beauty of the technology – we can put a huge library into someone’s hand that they can have 24-hour, seven-days-a-week access to.”
According to Dr. Gray, one of the benefits of Formed is reaching people who sometimes are less able to attend formation in parish settings.
“Usually the people that come to catechetical or faith formation programming at a parish are people in their 50s and 60s or older,” he said. “Now we’re reaching those young families in their 20s and 30s through the app and through the platform. … We’re reaching the whole family through this platform in a unique way and that’s what the technology allows.”
HOW IT CAN BE USED
“Formed is a waste of money if it doesn’t get used,” Donaldson said. “There is no other resource that brings content from more than 15 Catholic apostolates – faithful, Catholic content … the key is learning to use it well.”
Formed has a two teams of support personnel. The first is a technical support team to assist with logins, registration and using the website. The second team focuses on implementation and is staffed by people who have successfully used Formed in various facets of ministry. They have specialists in youth ministry, Hispanic ministry, parish evangelization and adult faith formation. They also offer free webinars each month focused on how to use Formed.
St. Bernard, Thief River Falls, has subscribed to Formed for two years. According to Jayne Miller, Youth Minister at St. Bernard, a men’s Cursillo group at the parish brought the YDisciple program to her attention and was moved to sponsor a subscription so the whole parish could access all of the resources on Formed.
Miller said they have had a great response to YDisciple from the youth, but use of Formed extends beyond youth ministry.
“The benefits are that it is available to all parish members and is the best form of small group evangelizing,” she said. “It’s hard to reach all people in a large parish, so it’s important to have the dynamic of small groups gathering regularly within the large body of the entire parish.”
She said groups in the parish have used Michael Gaitley’s “33 Days to Morning Glory” and followed a four-week retreat done in small groups meeting once a week for 90 minutes.
“We constantly encourage and remind people to use it,” she said. “I cannot say enough how much I highly recommend this as a tool for all parishes and people within the parishes.”
AJ Garcia, Director of New Evangelization and Justice for the diocese, says he cannot believe the amount and quality of resources available for the subscription price.
“Parishes can easily use content to go through as a small group study or through a parish-wide initiative,” Garcia said. “Resources on Formed can help parishioners to grow in their understanding of who Jesus is, understanding books of the Bible, theology, evangelization and lives of the saints. This can be done within a couple of clicks in the way that is most convenient and conducive to each person’s style of learning.”
Garcia is part of a Bible study that uses a Formed program called “Opening the Word.” It provides short video reflections on the upcoming Sunday Gospel as well as a guide that includes prompts and questions to lead discussion.
Donaldson highlighted parish or diocesan wide studies – something the Diocese of Baker, Oregon, implemented during Lent.
A study of the Sacrament of Reconciliation available on Formed called “Forgiven” was promoted in each parish. The study was held in parishes, but those who could not attend were invited to follow along on their own.
Donaldson spoke with the diocese after Lent and found out they had seen a large increase in use of Formed as well as great engagement across the diocese.
“They said their priests have never heard more confessions,” Donaldson said. “That’s what Formed is really all about. It’s about that engagement; it’s about allowing pastors to reach more souls, allowing dioceses to engage more with their parishes.”
Formed can also be a helpful tool for individuals and families.
“I’ve listened to a number of audio talks and watched most of the Symbolon series for my personal growth and development,” Garcia said.
He has also watched a number of “Brother Francis” cartoons with his young children.
“My kids are entertained, they sit and watch the 25 minute episodes and are engaged as they learn about the sacraments or about a saint,” he said.
Dr. Gray said, “We’re getting beautiful testimonies every day from people who are thanking us for how life-changing the content is.”
He has been contacted by parents who sent their adult children the login code and their children came back to the Church because of something they watched or listened to on Formed. He has also heard from former Protestants who were invited to Formed by a family member or friend and then convert.
“It’s a great way to empower people to share the faith in a way that’s very easy and joyful,” he said.
Through Dec. 1, parishes of the diocese can purchase a 12-month subscription to Formed for all of the households in their area at a discounted rate of $1,604. Pricing for parishes with less than 300 families is $775.
Parish clusters of two or more served by the same pastor and parish schools may share in a subscription. There is no limit to the number of people who can access Formed through the parish subscription.