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Formation series succeeds in making faith stick

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G.L.U.E (for God, Life, the Universe and Everything), was developed and delivered by St John the Baptist assistant priest Fr Ben Saliba over this past year. Photo: Mat De Sousa
G.L.U.E (for God, Life, the Universe and Everything), was developed and delivered by St John the Baptist assistant priest Fr Ben Saliba over this past year. Photo: Mat De Sousa

For Lidia Krslovic and Anna Pace, coming together as a community to learn more about their faith has been an incredibly enriching experience.

The Bonnyrigg Heights parishioners have joined hundreds who have flocked to St John the Baptist Catholic Church for a monthly adult faith formation series aimed at strengthening the community amidst the challenges and misconceptions of secular society.

“I think in the day and age you have to put on that armour,” said Lidia, referring the spiritual armour of God St Paul describes in his letter to the Ephesians.

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“It is not easy being Catholic, so it’s very important to be informed and to have that confidence, tolerance and love to say, ‘Hey, this what it is really about.’”

This monthly formation series, called G.L.U.E (for God, Life, the Universe and Everything), was developed and delivered by St John the Baptist assistant priest Fr Ben Saliba in response to feedback from his congregation regarding their beliefs.

Aimed at helping his adult parishioners go deeper into Catholicism over the course of 10 months, Fr Ben hoped that the formation evenings would increase their faith and return them to the “richness and beauty of the church into which they were baptised.”

After leaving school, Anna found the lack of opportunities for faith formation compounded her lack of knowledge of the fundamental tenets of Catholicism.

Now having attended every talk in the series, the Bonnyrigg Heights parishioner says that “having this faith education now is actually driving us to want to know more and want to learn more.”

“You think you understand some things, until you listen to Fr Ben and you think ‘Oh wow,’” Anna said.

“This education gives you more of an insight on things and compels you to go away and read more, because as you get more information you just want to keep going.

“And so we’ve gotten so much out of every single one of them.”

Covering a range of topics from prayer and liturgy to suffering and forgiveness, the Bonnyrigg Heights assistant priest collected over a hundred questions from his congregation to hone in on the areas of faith requiring more clarification.

Each evening concluded with a Q&A session which at times took just as long as the talks themselves, with many in attendance engaged to learn more.

Struck by Fr Ben’s depth and honesty on a variety of sensitive topics, both Anna and Lidia were challenged on previously held misconceptions and empowered to deepen their newfound knowledge.

“You’re told that to be a good Christian you need to forgive—and then that’s when it hits you,” said Anna.

“You sit there and go, Well, I’m not a good Christian at all because I didn’t forgive that person or I didn’t want to forgive that person.”

“The same happened on the nights that he told us about IVF and about abortion.

“You read about some of these things, but you don’t know the whole law and our Catholic teaching.

“It’s been fantastic and I don’t think any one of us have walked out without learning something.”

Concluding the year-long series on 28 November, Fr Ben’s final session addressed the church’s teachings on the Blessed Virgin Mary, a point of great contention between Catholics and other Christians, and one that is close to his heart.

He delved into the role of Mary in the church, her relationship to us and Christ, and taught on the four Marian dogmas: Divine Motherhood, Immaculate Conception, Perpetual Virginity, and Assumption.

Thanking everyone for their participation over the course of the year, the Bonnyrigg assistant priest said he was overjoyed by how much they loved it, which was telling by the numbers they have had in each of the sessions.

“I hope you all learned something and haven’t left it to me to present you with church teaching,” said Fr Ben.

“I hope it has been an avenue for you all to go home, pray about things, search for things on your own and grow deeper and get into your faith a little more.”

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