PORTLAND – “It is such an accomplishment to witness firsthand the joy and awe that radiate from the face of someone who has come to a new understanding of God.”
The words of Fr. Seamus Griesbach, pastor of the Portland Peninsula and Island parishes, perfectly sums up a new initiative that aims to provide the best possible faith formation to families in Cathedral Parish, St. Peter, of St. Louis Parish, Sacred Heart/St. Dominic Parish, all in Portland, and St. Christopher Parish (Peaks Island).
“Together with the other priests in our parish, faith formation staff and a number of volunteer catechists, we are starting what we call the ‘Portland Catholic Center for Faith,'” the father said. Seamus. “The main project of this initiative is a full religious experience on Wednesday afternoons for children and youth from pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade. I call it a religious experience because we will include not only classroom-type instruction, but also community prayer, recreation, and cultural aspects of the Catholic faith. Passing on the faith to children and young people is one of our greatest responsibilities.
As a first step, the Portland Catholic Center for Faith will be offering faith formation to all parish youth every Wednesday from 3-5 p.m. starting September 21 at the Cathedral Guild Hall in Portland. Immaculate Conception and surrounding grounds as well as the main church and chapel. Classes will be divided into different age groups (pre-K/K, grades 1-2, grades 3-5, middle school and high school) with a variety of teaching approaches designed to convey the richness of the faith.
“The Wednesday afternoon gathering will ensure that Melissa Mavais, our Religious Education Coordinator; Abrey Feliccia, our pastoral life coordinator; Bridgette Wargovich, our Director of Sacred Music at the Cathedral; as well as Fr. Kevin, myself and other clergy and staff can be directly involved in the program and instruction,” Fr. Seamus. “By working with a team of parish catechists, I believe this will enable us to provide strong, dynamic, high quality religious instruction for all ages.”
The organizers have planned the establishment of a day in response to advice from parish families.
“By bringing all ages together in one place and at one time each week, my hope is to reduce the burden on families with multiple children, who often drive a distance to their parish. Instead of youth ministry in high school at once, in college at once, in preparation for the sacraments at once, etc., all of this will be done at the same time,” the father said. Seamus. “We are also in the process of providing transport from local Catholic and public schools, so that with permission, pupils can be transported directly to Guild Hall after school on Wednesday and then collected after work by the parents.”
Once a month, family dinners will be organized to strengthen the community and offer parents the opportunity to develop their own religious life. After a 5 p.m. dinner, activities will take place for children while parents listen to a presentation designed for adults. The Portland Catholic Center for Faith will also launch a Summer Lecture Series in the summer of 2023 and host small group faith sharing for individuals to immerse themselves in specific areas of the Catholic faith.
“It’s a strong program run by priests, staff and volunteers,” the father said. Seamus. “This is a program that we hope every family in our parishes will participate in.”
Information sessions will be offered to anyone with questions about the programs. Sessions are scheduled for August 21 at Saint-Pierre after the 9:00 a.m. Mass and at Saint-Louis after the 11:30 a.m. Mass. Two additional sessions are scheduled for the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on August 28 after the 10 am Mass, and Sacred Heart/St. Dominique after midday mass the same day.
For more information, visit www.portlandcatholic.org/centerforfaith.