Hezel Associates & Diocese of Syracuse Assess Faith Formation Programs

Hezel Associates, LLC recently worked with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse to assist with reforming efforts of Faith Formation practices across the Syracuse Diocese. The Syracuse Diocese is not immune to some of the challenges facing the Catholic community. Like many Dioceses across the nation, Syracuse is witnessing declining participation in parish life, and Catholic life in general, in terms of Faith Formation programming. Discussions with the Diocese of Syracuse staff alluded to significant decline in weekly Mass participation, as well as decline in enrollment in faith formation and sacramental preparation programs.

There are a variety of factors as to why these changes are occurring, including, but not limited to: competing cultural and secular demands and philosophies, inadequate catechesis, and a lack of conversion among the baptized. Local population decline may also be attributed to decreases in the Central New York region. These declines, along with fewer vocations to the priesthood, have resulted in the closing of some parishes. In an effort to meet the needs of those who continue to practice their faith, some parishes have merged, while others have adopted a pastoral care areas (PCAs) model.

Given this background, the overarching purpose of the study was to provide information to guide Diocesan leadership in planning to meet the evangelization and catechetical needs of individuals and parishes, with a focus on aligning the role of the Office of Faith Formation to meet these needs. In addition, the research explored (a) the current state of Faith Formation at the parish level, (b) ways the Faith Formation Office can best support Parishes, and (c) current promising practices occurring within the Syracuse Diocese and nationally. The study was designed to learn from stakeholders, and take a bottom-up approach to planning, by gathering input from those directly involved in delivering Faith Formation programs at the parish.