Students in the School of Christian Formation will graduate on Tuesday, May 14 after dedicating three years to the religious education program. The students, who are adults from various parishes throughout the Diocese of Palm Beach, will celebrate their graduation with a Mass presided by Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito. All are invited to attend the Mass in support of the new graduates.
Bonita Lay, a confirmation catechist at Holy Family parish in Port St. Lucie, is a soon-to-be graduate from the School of Christian Formation, who is especially excited to take her new-found knowledge of the Catholic faith into the community. “I don’t believe that knowledge is power. I believe that applied knowledge is power. That’s why I’m going to take the lessons I’ve learned from the School of Christian Formation and apply them to my role as a catechist of the faith,” said Lay.
The decision to enter the program is not taken lightly, as it requires three years of commitment and numerous evening and weekend hours to complete. However, the result is a renewed love and awe for the faith that draws practicing Catholics deeper into the fold. “Many people who have grown up Catholic, myself included, are cultural Catholics and not intentional Catholics. We see examples of the faith in our lives but don’t always know it as thoroughly as we should. This is why I decided to enroll in the School of Christian Formation,” said Lay.
Lay noted that upon looking back on the courses, she enjoyed the sections on church history the most. She reflected that the history surrounding various clergy and how they stood the test of time put into perspective the perseverance of the Catholic Church through the centuries. Beyond the subject matter, Lay expressed that the sense of community she felt from the other classmates united them in one common goal—to know their faith more deeply. “At times throughout the course, the catechists would ask us to defend Catholicism in certain topics. It was inspiring to see how my fellow classmates would rally together to bring their knowledge to the table when discussing various themes,” remarked Lay.
The School of Christian Formation is structured in such a way where students undergo evaluations before and after each segment of the program. “I was blown away by how much I grew in my understanding of Catholicism before and after the classes. The evaluations are a great way to measure how far you’ve come,” said Lay.
The third-year students attended a graduation retreat at Mary Immaculate parish in West Palm Beach led by Reverend Duván Bermudez, director of Hispanic ministry and the School of Christian Formation, and Angelica Aguilera, Hispanic ministry and School of Christian Formation coordinator. Lay expressed how well attended the retreat was and noted that there was a large showing of Spanish-speakers present. “I was impressed with the fact that these classes are offered in both English and Spanish, and that there is a desire from both language communities to come together under one faith,” said Lay.
When asked what was next for Lay now that she has completed the formation program, she replied, “I want to take what I’ve learned in the program and modify it for children in my religious education programs at Holy Family. I feel better equipped to teach them now that I understand my faith better. In the future, I would like to become a catechist at the School of Christian Formation. It’s an experience that pushed me to grow spiritually, and I want to help others do the same.”
The graduation Mass for the School of Christian Formation will be held on Tuesday, May 14 at the Cathedral of St. Ignatius Loyola at 6 p.m. All are welcome to attend. For more information on the School of Christian Formation, including course listings, scheduling and financial requirements, visit diocesepb.org/school-of-christian-formation or call 561-775-9544.