Dominican Sister of Hope Connie Koch, OP has been working in parish ministry for sixteen years. During this time, she has done everything from facilitating youth ministry with West Point cadets to directing local Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (a formation program for adults who want to become Catholic) chapters. Yet, central to her work is building community, whether it’s among a group of teenagers in a parish, between engaged couples, or with a group of people who are in the process of converting to Catholicism. Community, she says, is not just an important part of a faith journey, but the very heartbeat of it.
A vibrant faith community is an active faith community. It consists of people who want to invest in their spiritual lives together, and a parish that is willing to meet their needs through programming in addition to offering Mass and the sacraments.
“Faith formation gives people information and inspires them to recognize their own personal gifts and how they can be used to give praise and honor to God and to help one another,” Sister Connie says. “People can help their neighbors to have more hope and trust in a God of love.”
Though they are essential parts of the Christian faith, hope and trust are not easy to live out. It’s hard not to get disheartened, especially in a society where violence seems so prevalent. Sister Connie says that, when the state of the world seems hopeless, faith can be a way out.
And faith is propelled by an active faith community.
“I think that building community among adults in a faith venue is vital as an answer to a world that lacks hope,” Sister Connie explains. “It’s important to help each other not lose hope, and to see what hope there is in seeing a loving and forgiving God. That is what I think is missing when we listen to the news.”
As the Pastoral Assistant for Faith Formation at Holy Family parish in New Rochelle, Sister Connie’s current job is to create a welcoming and engaging environment in which everyone can learn about and promote their faith, regardless of their background. Sister Connie has organized everything from lectures, to a Lenten series, to bible study sessions, to book clubs.
Church programs are intended to have a variety of outcomes: they help participants to grow in and appreciate their faith for their own personal benefit, as well as for the greater benefit of society. Sister Connie hopes that adult formation will help to welcome inactive parishioners back into the Church and welcome new participants for the first time. As for those who are active in the Church, Sister Connie hopes that they can be models for those around them.
“My goal is to have a vital parish community with ongoing faith formation at every level,” Sister Connie says. “I want to bring people into the parish community and help them to learn more and appreciate their faith.”
Do you have opportunities to participate in your parish community? Do you find that being active in Church helps your spiritual life? If there isn’t already a program at a parish that you’d like to attend, can you suggest or start one?
According to Sister Connie, faith formation is fruitful for all involved, even the facilitators. “I am excited, and I am challenged by this ministry,” she says. “I’m growing in the process of helping others grow closer to Christ.”