The parish's role in the Church's mission to evangelize is primarily one of formation: teaching the Gospel and forming intentional disciples.
The parish's central task is form and equip disciples. Every aspect of what the parish does should take on a formative role.
Parish formation should be focused primarily on adults. Parents are the primary catechists for their children, and they need to be formed well for this task. Other parish formation efforts should be modeled on adult formation.
Formation cannot only be theoretical and abstract, but must be applied to daily life.
Parish formation needs to be ongoing and lifelong, not only offered around Christian initiation or other sacramental events.
In this dialogue between God who offers his gifts, and the person who is called to exercise responsibility, there comes the possibility, indeed the necessity, of a total and ongoing formation of the lay faithful, as the Synod Fathers have rightly emphasized in much of their work....
On the Vocation and Mission of the Lay Faithful (Christifideles Laici)
Pope John Paul II
[Catechesis] seeks to equip the disciples of Jesus to be present as Christians in society through their professional, cultural and social lives.... This task of evangelization originates, for the lay faithful, in the sacraments of Christian initiation and in the secular character of their vocation.
General Directory for Catechesis
We urge that theological education and formation be extended to more lay persons.... Innovative ways must be found to bring the best of the Catholic intellectual and spiritual tradition to more laity. Print and electronic media, computer networks, and mentoring programs offer exciting possibilities. The Church needs a well-educated, inquiring, and vocal laity if the new evangelization is to achieve its full potential.
Called and Gifted for the Third Millennium
National Conference of Catholic Bishops
The apostolate can attain its maximum effectiveness only through a diversified and thorough formation. This is demanded not only by the continuous spiritual and doctrinal progress of the lay person himself but also by the accommodation of his activity to circumstances varying according to the affairs, persons, and duties involved. This formation for the apostolate should rest upon those bases which have been stated and proclaimed by this most holy council in other documents. In addition to the formation which is common for all Christians, many forms of the apostolate demand also a specific and particular formation because of the variety of persons and circumstances.
Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity (Apostolicam Actuositatem), 28-29
Second Vatican Council
...to teach as Jesus did means calling and equipping all Christians of every age and stage of life to fulfill their baptismal call to holiness in family, Church, and society—their mission to evangelize and transform the world into a more caring and just society. Ongoing faith formation is essential to accomplish this mission; it does not end at confirmation or graduation but continues until one's death.
In much the same way that being an evangelizing community is not primarily something a parish does but something a parish is, being a community that fosters adult faith is not primarily specific programs that a parish offers but the understanding of lifelong learning that permeates the entire faith community.
Toward an Adult Church
Jane E. Regan
Catechetical methodologies are based on the proclamation of the faith from Sacred Scripture and Tradition and their application to human experience, or they are based on human experience examined in light of the Gospel and teachings of the Church. These catechetical methods, though distinct, are complementary and should guide pastoral programs aimed at renewing the faith of all Catholics, including our missing brothers and sisters. For these methodologies and the programs based on them to be effective, they must be grounded in witness to the Gospel.
Disciples Called to Witness: The New Evangelization
Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, USCCB
Since formation for the apostolate cannot consist in merely theoretical instruction, from the beginning of their formation the laity should gradually and prudently learn how to view, judge and do all things in the light of faith as well as to develop and improve themselves along with others through doing, thereby entering into active service to the Church. This formation, always in need of improvement because of the increasing maturity of the human person and the proliferation of problems, requires an ever deeper knowledge and planned activity. In the fulfillment of all the demands of formation, the unity and integrity of the human person must be kept in mind at all times so that his harmony and balance may be safeguarded and enhanced.
Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity (Apostolicam Actuositatem), 29
Second Vatican Council
Adult faith formation, by which people consciously grow in the life of Christ through experience, reflection, prayer, and study, must be "the central task in [this] catechetical enterprise," becoming "the axis around which revolves the catechesis of childhood and adolescence as well as that of old age."
Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us:
A Pastoral Plan for Adult Faith Formation in the United States, 5
...adult faith formation should serve as the point of reference for catechesis for other age groups. It ought to be "the organizing principle, which gives coherence to the various catechetical programs offered by a particular Church." Maturity of faith is the intent of all catechesis from the earliest years. Thus, all catechesis is geared to a lifelong deepening of faith in Christ. How necessary, then, that the catechetical ministry with adults set an example of the highest quality and vitality.
Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us:
A Pastoral Plan for Adult Faith Formation in the United States, 41-43
Cover image from Pentecost, a painting by El Greco.