On a recent Tuesday evening, a small group of men met in Matt
Surdyke’s basement. Sitting around a table with a few cold beers, at
first glance once might assume they were there to play a few hands of
But not this group. These men were about to break open the
word of God in preparation for Sunday Mass. The readings, followed by a
robust discussion among the men, has been a weekly ritual at Surdyke’s
home in Festus for the past several years.
“We like to discuss our
thoughts about the readings and how it may have moved somebody,” said
Surdyke, a parishioner at Our Lady in Festus.
If you’d have asked
Surdyke if he would have done something like this many years ago, the
resounding answer would’ve been “no.” But through his involvement with
the archdiocesan Lay Formation Program, he’s gained a new confidence and
understanding of what it means to be a missionary disciple for the
Church in which he’s been a member his entire life.
“This is the
first time in my adult life that I’ve sat around and talked about the
faith with others,” he said. “It gave me the confidence to start up this
group at my home and get involved in the Church in other ways.”
was among 124 people in the second cohort of the Lay Formation Program
who were commissioned at a Mass April 13 at the Cathedral Basilica of
Saint Louis. The three-year program is designed to offer lay men and
women an opportunity to deepen their union with Christ and develop a
greater ability to participate in the Church’s mission of evangelization
as missionary disciples.
The program, offered through the
archdiocesan Department of Catholic Education and Formation, includes
the intellectual, spiritual and pastoral aspects of formation.
Participants are given instruction in basic Catholic doctrine, the
sacraments and moral theology, and participate in eucharistic adoration,
praying with Scripture, the Liturgy of the Hours, daily Examen, the
sacraments and moral theology, among others.
recommended by their pastors, and upon their commissioning, they make a
promise to serve their parishes, working in partnership with their
pastor, for at least three years.
Sister Mary Kathleen Ronan, RSM,
Lay Formation Program director, said that participants experience new
depths of integrating faith in their lives, which has a profound impact
upon how they serve the Church. Many lay formation participants already
are active in their parishes in some way, she noted. So in a sense, this
brings their service to a new level.
“Each person has separate
and individually unique gifts,” she said. “But everyone, please God,
through their union with Christ, will come to a greater awareness of
their true identity as beloved children of the Father,” she said. It’s
reminiscent of the words of St. Paul about being configured to Christ.
In his letter to the Galatians, he said: “It is no longer I who live,
but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live
by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
Mary Kathleen added: “To grow in understanding of the effects of our
baptism is life changing. Once we get it, we are never the same. We are
actually given a share in the very life of the divinity,” the Triune
Ed Hogan, former director of the Pontifical Paul VI Institute
who helped develop the Lay Formation Program, shared his enthusiasm for
the evident fruits of the first cohort. Some participants have chosen
to go on to serve the Church in new ways, such as one woman who went on
to become a pastoral associate at her parish and then became certified
to offer spiritual direction.
“I’m always excited to meet new
people and find out where they are and take them to the next step,” said
Hogan, who now serves as academic dean and associate professor of
systematic theology at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary. “The Holy Spirit has
been doing these things throughout history. We find these people in a
new place and are seeing what the Holy Spirit has been preparing for
them and will unleash through them. It’s exciting to see the
constellation of gifts the Holy Spirit has prepared this time.”
‘I feel it in my heart’
“Cookie” Killingsworth was attending a meeting at St. Augustine Parish
when her pastor, Msgr. Bob Gettinger, approached her and another woman
from the parish. Would you consider attending the Lay Formation Program,
“Well, we never turn Father Bob down,” Killingsworth
said with a laugh. “He said it would be a way to assist him in doing
things at the parish.”
Killingsworth and two other parishioners,
Eleanor Hickerson and Linda Hancock-Ross, joined the second cohort. One
Saturday a month, they attended sessions at the Cardinal Rigali Center,
where they spent time in prayer and adoration and participated in
conferences on a variety of topics.
Prior to the Lay Formation
Program, Killingsworth was involved at St. Augustine, bringing Communion
to the homebound, ushering and lectoring at Masses, and participating
in the choir. The time spent in formation has given her a new outlook on
serving the parish. Just recently, Killingsworth began helping with a
parish ministry that provides utility assistance to people in need.
She’s also considering bringing back a door-to-door ministry to invite
people from the neighborhood to visit St. Augustine.
said she’s spiritually grown in the last three years and now has a new
way of seeing Jesus in others. “Jesus showed a lot of hospitality to
others and didn’t shun anyone,” she said. “All of this has been focused
on showing the love of Christ to others. We’ve all been soaked in the
knowledge. I feel it in my heart.”
went to Mass one morning, where he’d been praying about the direction of
his faith life. His then-pastor, Father Jeff Maassen, stopped Surdyke
after Mass. “He said, ‘You look like you’re looking for something
more,’” Surdyke recalled. “I looked around like, ‘Was I praying out loud
or something?’” Father Maassen told him about the Lay Formation Program
and asked if he’d consider it.
Initially he was concerned he
couldn’t make a three-year commitment because of his work schedule. As
owner of Surdyke Motorsports in Festus, Saturday is his busiest. But
when he looked at the cohort’s schedule of meetings, he discovered he
wouldn’t have a single conflict.
“I took it as a sign,” he said.
program opened Surdyke’s eyes to reading the word of God through the
practice of Lectio Divina, a Benedictine practice of praying with the
Scriptures, which helps a person enter into dialogue with the Lord and
come in closer communion with Him. The practice led him to start a
weekly men’s group at his home, in which they delve into the readings
for Sunday Mass. He and his wife, Jennifer, started a similar faith
sharing group for couples.
Surdyke also is involved in the
Community of Transcendent Men, a ministry formed by men of several
parishes in the area that helps them strengthen their relationship with
God and His Church and build a community in which they can express their
faith with one another.
He described the Lay Formation Program as
“a great way to get a little taste of a lot of things” related to the
faith. “It was like going to a restaurant where I was able to try
something new and then wanting to try it some more.”
has been active in his parish, Our Lady in Festus, since he was a
child, the formation has given him the tools to share the faith with
others in new ways. “We Catholics tend to keep our faith to ourselves
sometimes,” he said. “This has given me the confidence to share my faith
Lay Formation Program
Lay Formation Program is a three-year program designed to offer lay men
and women an opportunity to deepen their union with Christ and develop
an ability to participate in the Church’s mission of evangelization as
missionary disciples. The program includes intellectual, spiritual and
The program fosters a deepened awareness of
and openness to the action of God’s grace. They also develop skills to
speak to others about the Catholic faith and promotes greater
consciousness of the intimate relationship between the love of God and
love of neighbor.
Candidates must be recommended by their pastor.
They are expected to finish the program eager to serve their parish
communities and work in partnership with their pastor. They also agree
to offer three years of service to the parish.
The program is
offered through the archdiocesan Department of Catholic Education and
Formation. There is no charge to attend the program, although
participants will need to purchase books. The program is funded by the
Annual Catholic Appeal.
Contact your pastor for more information
about applying for the next cohort, which begins in the fall. For
questions about the program, contact Sister Mary Kathleen Ronan, RSM, at
Lay Formation Program stats
First cohort: Began in September 2013; One hundred and nine people were commissioned in May 2016
Second cohort: Began in September 2016; One hundred and twenty four people were commissioned in April 2019
are 87 archdiocesan parishes that were represented at one or both
cohorts. The first cohort had 57 parishes represented, and the second
cohort had 62 parishes represented.