Imelda Aba, right, attended the Echos of Faith workshop with her sister Ellen Aba-Roda and brother in-law Ferdinand Roda of St Matthew Parish.


Imelda Aba, right, attended the Echos of Faith workshop with her sister Ellen Aba-Roda and brother in-law Ferdinand Roda of St Matthew Parish.

November 9, 2015

When it comes to explaining the hope and joy that is in her, Susan Barylo has her elevator pitch down.

Barylo, the coordinator of the Archdiocese of Edmonton's Office of Catechesis, was not born a Catholic. But even 38 years after her conversion, she can hardly contain her excitement about her faith.

It is what got her through breast cancer. It is what gets her through rough patches in her marriage. It is what gets her through rough patches in the various jobs she has held over the years. It is what gets her through fights with her best friends.

So Barylo has devoted her life to sharing this faith.

This fall, she is helping others also fulfill this mission by leading workshops in the art of passing on the faith.

"Peter says, 'Always be ready with an explanation for the hope and joy that's in you,'" she said recently to a group of about 30 participants gathered for the workshop at St. Clare Parish in Edmonton.

"If you can't do that yet, then that's going to be your homework. Why are we Catholic? Why does it matter to us?"

The workshop covers the basic foundations of what is needed to pass on your faith.

Participants take part in readings of the Scriptures, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Vatican documents, and exercises according to the Echoes: Echoing Christ participants' book. It is a parish-based training manual for handing on faith.

"To pass on faith you have to live your faith," said Barylo. "You don't necessarily have to have the catechism memorized.

"The aim of my giving these introductory sessions is to have people learn how they can connect their lived experiences of faith with the Church's wisdom about catechesis; connecting their lived experiences of faith with the solid foundation to strengthen their ability to pass it on to other people."

The sessions, being offered across the archdiocese through the Office of Catechesis, are meant to enrich the faith of participants and equip them on how to share it more effectively.

The workshops are open to anyone wanting to learn more about the faith, including those involved in sacramental preparation, RCIA, adult faith formation in the parish.

The sessions are also for parents and grandparents who want to talk about their faith more easily with their children or grandchildren.

Father Jack Gallagher, who helped co-ordinate the workshop for the Edmonton East Deanery, said the program is especially important for parents.

"Most parents don't have a clue what it means that they are the main catechists for their children," said Gallagher.

"So I thought this would be a chance to get them aware that they can do this. You don't have to be an expert to do this.

"The Church dies if parents don't pass on the faith to their children."


Vatican II called on parishes to concentrate on adult formation 50 years ago, yet the majority of the effort most parishes make in North America is concentrated on children's formation, said Barylo.

"If they (children) go home to parents that are uncertain or ill equipped to articulate their own faith experience, then something's missing," said Barylo.

Formally training catechists has been an interest of the Western Assembly of Catholic Bishops for a number of years. Barylo's task was trying to find a catechist formation resource that was solidly Catholic and endorsed by the magisterium.

She recommended the Echoes of Faith program to Archbishop Richard Smith, who gave the go-ahead to hold the fall sessions.

During the workshop, Barylo gets to the heart of the faith, starting from the origin of the Church at Pentecost. She also leads participants through the passing of Christ's life in Scripture and examines tradition and the catechism.

Barylo shows participants how to use the text and also encourages them to read Vatican constitutions.

In explaining the purpose of the Second Vatican Council, Barylo highlighted an important lesson for people who want to pass on the faith: "Condemning errors is not really the way to win people's hearts," she said.

"But showing the beauty, strength, richness, the treasure that we have as Catholics,­ that's the task,".

Frances Cliffe, a cradle Catholic and member of St Alphonsus Parish, attended the workshop so she could get fired up about her faith and find more ways to share it, she said.

"I think we constantly need to be educated and you can't teach someone what you don't know yourself or what you're feeling," said Cliffe. "You have to know it.

"It's our gift given to us and we should do more sessions like this."

Cliffe has successfully managed to pass on her faith to her own daughter, who is also active in her parish.

Imelda Aba, who attended the workshop with her sister Ellen Aba-Roda and brother in-law Ferdinand Roda of St Matthew Parish, said they came to learn more about the faith so they can share it with their children.

Aba was raised in a Muslim family, so it was especially important for her to learn more about the traditions of the Church.


"Because we didn't learn it growing up (the workshop) was very interesting," said Aba.

"It's very important for everyone to know the faith and pass it on from generation to generation."

After reading the Vatican documents in the class, they found them to be simple to understand.

The passing on of faith workshops have been held so far in five of the eight deaneries of the archdiocese.

Barylo covers the first three sessions of the guidebook. Plans are to have the remainder of the 11 sessions taught by catechists in each deanery under the direction of the Office of Catechesis.