Lay Formation Alumni gather to reconnect, reflect and bid farewell to beloved program

Organizers of the Lay Formation Alumni Fall Gathering. (Photo by Lynne Gillies)

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News / Photos by Teresa Bodnar-Hiebert, Lynne Gillies and Blake Sittler

Some 120 alumni and former facilitators and leaders of the diocesan Lay Formation program gathered Oct. 27-28 for one last annual Alumni Fall Gathering at Queen’s House of Retreat and Renewal in Saskatoon — the facility that for so many years was the site of Lay Formation weekends of prayer, learning and community.

Indigenous Lay Formation Program alumni from Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Saskatoon. (Photo by Lynne Gillies)

The final alumni gathering was a time for connection, grieving, and reflection, including perspectives by founders and former coordinators, volunteers and presenters about the history of the program, its vision and its impact.

Celebrants at Mass: Fr Ivan Nahachewsky, Chancellor of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon, Archbishop Murray Chatlain of the Archdiocese of Keewatin-LePas, and Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI. (Photo by Teresa Bodnar-Hiebert)

Guest speaker at the Fall Gathering (in person and on Zoom) was Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI, who for many years was one of the celebrated presenters of sessions at the Lay Formation program.

The weekend schedule also included a wine and cheese reception Oct. 28 and a closing Mass and banquet Oct. 29.

History of the program:

Lay Formation leaders through the years were honoured at the 2022 Alumni gathering (l-r) Gisele Bauche, Mona Goodman, Sister Bonnie Komarnicki, SSMI, Debbie Ledoux, Louise Gantefoer and Kathy Hitchings. (Photo by Blake Sittler)

Initiated by the Roman Catholic of Diocese of Saskatoon in 1987, the two-year, monthly weekend live-in Lay Formation program expanded over the years to include the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon offering a jointly-held eparchial stream, and the dioceses of Prince Albert and Keewatin-Le Pas joining the Saskatoon diocese in offering a unique Indigenous Catholic stream.

The Lay Formation program was part of the diocesan response to Saint Pope John Paul’s request that the formation of lay people should be among the priorities of every diocese (Christifideles Laici #57).  The purpose of the program was to help adult Catholics fulfill their baptismal commitment to the mission and ministry of Jesus through a process of formation and faith education.

Some 900 people in total participated in the program over its 32 years of operation. The Lay Formation Alumni association was established to offer ongoing community to those missioned in the diocesan, eparchial and aboriginal streams of the program.

With the introduction of a new model of adult faith formation in the diocese of Saskatoon, the last Lay Formation class was sent forth in a missioning celebration in 2019.  Since then, a new model of adult faith programming has been launched in the diocese of Saskatoon, with Proclaim-Awaken-Encounter events held throughout the year.

Gallery of images from Fall Gathering 2022: