POMPTON LAKES, N.J. — The first session of the groundbreaking “Growing in Faith and Theology” (GIFT) for Passaic and Morris counties in New Jersey is going down in history as a big success, drawing almost 340 participants to the 12-church endeavor.
Held at the recently-opened Carnevale Center at St. Mary Church in Pompton Lakes, N.J., named for Michael Carnevale, OFM, GIFT is a collaborative adult faith formation program spearheaded by St. Mary’s Michael Burck, director of parish programming.
The participating parishes were St. Mary’s, Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church, Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, Holy Cross Church, Holy Spirit Church, Immaculate Heart of Mary, Our Lady of Magnificat Church, Our Lady of the Valley Church, St. Anthony Church, St. Francis, and the Province’s Our Lady of the Holy Angels.
The partnership allows the parishes together to offer a higher level of learning than they could have on their own, according to Burck. Four of the instructors hold doctoral degrees.
The turnout was impressive, Burck said. The Introduction to Islam course was particularly well attended, with 85 people, he said. The Marriage Enrichment Workshop drew 37 couples.
The Paterson diocesan newspaper, The Beacon, called the program “historic,” because, for the first time ever, 12 parishes were coming together to work collaboratively on such an extensive adult religous educaton program,” Burck said. The publication included a feature about GIFT in its Dec. 27, 2007 issue.
Burck, who began a similar program at churches in Bergen County, N.J., in the 1990s, launched the program at St. Mary’s last year. “We tend to be bound by our boundaries and we don’t cross over them. We can share resources with each other and adult formation is one of those resources.”
Between Jan. 24 and Feb. 14, GIFT featured eight courses: “The Catholic Experience from Roots to Wings,” taught by Marylin Kravatz, Ph. D.; “Faith and Values in the Public Square,” Kay Furlani and Jeff Korgen; “Stewardship: A Way of Life In a Parish Community,” the Rev. Michael Lombardo and Sr. Arlene Kollar, SSC; “Herstory,” Msgr. Raymond Kupke, Ph.D.; “That You May Have Life: An Introduction to the Gospel of John and Its Message,” Paul Sansone; “The Great Encircling: Recovering the Vision of Celtic Spirituality,” Sr. Kathleen, Diegnan, Ph.D.; “Introduction of Islam,” Richard Scaine, Ph.D.; and “Marriage Enrichment Workshop for Couples,” Jack Kakolewski, Ed.S.
“It went very well,” Burck said. “I was excited and overwhelmed by the response – I thought we would start out small and build from there, but attendance was terrific.”
The multi-parish planning committee consisted of one representative from each parish. It met four times last year to plan curriculum and select teachers, develop and distribute brochures, and publicize the program. Each parish paid $350 to cover start-up costs, and the fee for the program’s courses was $30 per person.
The center, which opened last fall, has two floors of classroom, office, and meeting space. “It is a wonderful facility,” said pastor Kevin Downey, OFM. Details about the Oct. 7 dedication of the Carnevale Center can be found in the Oct. 24 issue of this newsletter.