Rural parishes have seen an urgent need for lay leadership. They need men and women capable and willing to facilitate small group discussions around the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Church. That is why Catholic Rural Life started Life in Christ, a program that trains and accompanies lay leaders. John and Peg Faber, parishioners from Adrian, Minnesota in the diocese of Winona, shared their experience and the fruits of their participation in Life in Christ over the past six years.
CRL: Tell us about your parish community. What is it like and what challenges have you faced?
Faber’s: Adrian is a farming based community. Farming communities are in the plant, weed, harvest, plow, routine from year to year. The people who live in these communities also tend to treat their religion as a routine – they go to mass and that is the extent of their interest. They feel they have done what is required of them. Most of our population is elderly and maybe 85% are only high school graduates. The same percentages make up our parish. Many people in the parish aren’t used to putting themselves out there. They are afraid of failing, therefore they do not try new things. People have told us they don’t feel smart enough – most have no experience with Bible study. In the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s this was not a problem because participation in things like reading for the Mass, Eucharistic Ministry, Bible Study, etc. were not an option. Also, in the past our parish did not offer any programs for adults, they only offered the normal Wednesday night children’s religious education program which most parishes use.
CRL: How have these challenges been addressed over the years?
Faber’s: In the past five years, Mass participation has increased due to a change of pastor. In addition, the programs that started from our training with Life in Christ have brought new opportunities and life to the parish. Life in Christ has encouraged us to keep going and offer more to our fellow parishioners.
CRL: How did you get involved with Life in Christ and how has it affected your parish community?
Faber’s: We originally got involved with Life in Christ because Jim Ennis, Executive Director of CRL, offered it to Father Timothy Hall. They invited us to a meeting with three other potential leaders. We were the only ones to continue because we thought it was a great opportunity to increase our own knowledge and help others too. And we keep on ticking!
We started our Bible Study with four other friends. John has also become a homebound communion distributor, we have become sacristans and we lead the rosary before Masses. Through these experiences, we have grown in our own spiritual life through daily spiritual reading and attending week day masses when they are offered. We have also seen a growing interest from other members of the parish. People trust that with our training from Life in Christ we will not lead them astray. The people who have attended Bible and Book Study start asking us two months in advance when the next one is going to start. Last year we had our biggest group– around 20 joined us. We were thrilled!
John and Peg’s story of living Life in Christ is one of many telling what life is like in a rural parish. In our summer magazine issue, Life in the Rural Parish: Community, Leadership, Formation and Faith, we gathered stories from all over the country that exemplify the beauty of how communities come together to answer the many challenges faced in rural life. Click here to read more from our summer magazine!