Helping adults deepen their faith

By Antony Lawes, 20 June 2024
A gathering of The FaithFeed in Blacktown. Image: Mary Brazell/Diocese of Parramatta


As young people leave school and start to make their way in the world, they find themselves without many of the familiar routines and support networks. And as they begin to question the world around them and look for meaning on their own, many can start to feel disconnected from their faith.

To help young adults keep this connection, as well as to provide a way back to their faith or to even help deepen faith for older adults, the Diocese of Parramatta has a series of short courses and one-off sessions that give adults the opportunity to find answers to their questions.

Donnie Velasco, a facilitator with the Diocese’s Mission Enhancement Team (MET), helps design and run many of these courses.

He says research has found that many young people have an openness to religion and “belief in the transcendent”, but that many do not have a commitment to organised religion.

“We found that storytelling and searching for meaning was one of the places and spaces that these people will gravitate to,” he says. So he and his MET colleagues came up with a series of TED-style talks that were held in an old church building, remodelled to look and feel more like a café or a bar where young and old can go to relax. And they invite speakers from a range of backgrounds to tell their life stories.

Called The FaithFeed, these talks have become an important way of reaching young adults, Donnie says.

“We’ve taken the space of storytelling and the freedom it gives people – much like music does to cut through people’s hearts – to say, ‘this is really meaningful for me’.

Alison Ryan from the Mission Enhancement Team speaks during The FaithFeed Conversations at the Bishop Bede Heather Centre, Blacktown, on Friday 11 November. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

“The premise is, as someone shares their life and faith questions and their life and faith stories, by osmosis, it may catch on with the people listening who say, ‘hey, I have those questions, too’.”

However, these FaithFeed talks are just one of many “access points” for adults in the Diocese who want to explore their faith.

The MET facilitators also run short courses on scripture, theology, spirituality and “ministry skilling”, or learning to live day to day with faith. Called FaithLIFE short courses, they are run over three weeks and can also be offered in parishes.

One participant at a recent FaithLIFE short course on scripture, run by Dr Michele Connelly rsj, says it gave her a much deeper historical appreciation of the Gospels.

“This ‘hidden in plain sight’ aspect of the Gospels really appealed to the story lover in me,” she says.

“Now when I add the drama and theatre of the oral storytelling tradition to the Gospel reading, I find that the scripture readings take on a new layer of meaning and depth.

“I will be using this along with the Ignatian imaginative prayer to deepen my journey through Holy Week this year. After all, Jesus himself was a great storyteller and knew the power of stories.”

Donnie says these are “low-key academic lectures” that don’t presume any prior knowledge of theology and have a real-life application.

Deacon John Collins speaks during the FaithLIFE Theology Short Course at the Bishop Bede Heather Centre, Blacktown in April 2024. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

Then there are workshops that the MET facilitators design specifically for parishes and communities who request them. Some of these have included ‘welcome workshops’ for parish members who want to know how to encourage interested friends and family to come along to Mass; or ‘faith and fitness’ workshops that integrate faith with personal training.

One of the most popular events specifically for women in the Diocese is a question-and-answer-style event called At The Well.

Begun in 2018 by Catholic Youth Parramatta, it features a panel of speakers discussing questions that have been submitted by members of the audience prior to the event, as well as specific topics or passages of scripture.

It has become so popular that a podcast – also called At The Well – was started to answer some of the unanswered questions from the event. The podcast is available on Spotify.

Guests and panellists are seen during the At the Well gathering in Blacktown in April. Image: Catholic Youth Parramatta

But the most comprehensive courses in the Diocese for adults to learn about faith are run by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, the agency that trains SRE Catechists so they can teach scripture in public schools.

This training is spread over three levels, depending on the experience of the SRE Catechist, and each level involves 10 half-day sessions.

By the end of the training, Catechists will have a solid understanding of Catholic beliefs and practices, how to engage students in learning, and the developmental stages of children and young people. But some of the modules are also popular with parishioners and others who want to improve their knowledge of scripture.

Other programs to help deepen your faith

  • Marriage Courses to prepare for marriage and beyond
  • Liturgical Ministry Courses to learn theological, pastoral and practical aspects of the liturgy
  • Music workshops to learn about the importance and role of music in worship
  • The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) program for those who are interested in becoming Catholic

To learn more about how adults can explore their faith in the Diocese of Parramatta, go to or check out our Diocesan events calendar.

This article was originally published in the 2024 Ordinary Time | Winter edition of the Catholic Outlook Magazine. You can read the digital version here or pick up a copy in your local parish.


Read Daily
* indicates required