Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Fiat: A group for young women of a parish

I mentioned in my post yesterday that Fr. Searby developed a group for the young women of his parish. I had not seen the PDF file on Fr. Searby's website until this morning. It still does not give much about the structure. However, he shares a little more about Fiat at Holy Spirit Parish in Virgina. This, to me, sounds like the beginnings of a more broad apostolate for girls in grades 5-12. Keep in mind, this is a program that is originating in one particular parish, prompted by one parish priest. It looks to me like a model program for other parishes with similar circumstances.

In parishes where there are male only altar boys, we know that such programs help them to develop in multi-faceted ways. Those of us in such parishes treasure these programs because we know how highly it is regarded by the boys and it often yields a very large altar-boy corp. At Assumption Grotto we are talking about roughly 60 boys ranging in age from about 7 on up to 18 and beyond, including a few adults. At nearby Ss Cyril & Methodius, the number is twice that many. We also highly regard these programs because we know that it helps young men to hear God's call to the priesthood. "Father" is not some distant figure in the pulpit each week, and all of the priests encourage the boys to develop a solid prayer life, to use confession frequently, build virtue and to develop some discipline. This serves other boys who are called to family life to be better husbands and fathers. This says nothing of the graces that come with such service. There are often "altar boy" retreats, and outings which further their development and enable bonding.

Altar boys at Grotto on Good Friday 2006

Despite the fact that some pastors opt out of having altar girls, female vocations have not suffered in the least. In fact, I believe female vocations are higher at such parishes - with young women going to more traditional religious orders, which happen to be in a boom right now (see my vocation section for past posts). Girls are already living a kind of "Fiat" life at Grotto, but it is loosely organized. Developing "Fiat" at places like Assumption Grotto and Ss. Cyril & Methodius would give structure to developing girls in a similar way that boys experience, without serving in the Sanctuary. This includes gazing on our Lord in the Sanctuary (Ps 63: 3). It also adds something else that has been lacking - a means to give girls similar outings. At Assumption Grotto, we are blessed with Sisters from the Society of Sisters of Holy Cross who are affiliated with Opus Angelorum, and priests of the Order of Canons Regular of the Holy Cross (ORC). Please do not confuse any of these with other "Holy Cross orders", such as priests of the same name, but abbreviated OSC. The sisters, who live in a convent on the grounds of Assumption Grotto, have retreats and days of recollections for girls several times yearly and work with them in other ways too.

Developing "Fiat" would give parents a chance to further structure something that would enable girls to develop a regular prayer life, virtues that would make them better wives and mothers, and could further aid them in hearing God's call to religious life. At the same time, they would serve the Church through their prayers.

Just what is Fiat and how is it structured? The PDF file I supplied gives us a glimpse as to what it is, but I have yet to find a breakdown of the structure. Perhaps it is something developed over time with a blend of prayer, adoration, and activities that gives them life-skills, as well as opportunities for bonding, and outings just for fun. Fr. Searby gives us a few more clues in the article I posted about yesterday.

The Fiat group for girls was launched after Father Searby prayerfully sought out the guidance of the Blessed Mother and St. Therese of Lisieux. He based the program on John Paul II’s 1988 apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem (The Dignity and Vocation of Women), with its focus on the fundamental vocations of women to motherhood and consecrated virginity.

“The primary role of girls in Fiat,” explains Father Searby, “will be to accompany Our Lord, get to know him as a friend and be with him as young women imbued with the Gospel.” They’re assigned times to adore Our Lord during the parish’s weekly hours of Eucharistic adoration.

The Fiat girls also help the elderly and the infirm. And they work with parish moms, meet sisters from thriving religious orders and are immersed in the beauty of the Catholic faith so they can most effectively evangelize the culture no matter their vocational calling — as wives and mothers, or as religious.

“Enlivened by the Eucharist and a friendship with Christ,” says Father Searby, “they’ll go out and bring that mysterious relationship to others.”