“Sorting Fish” Stories

Slow Walking toward an Adult Faith Formation Model

For nearly two years I’ve been part of an ecumenical working group associated with Journey to Baptismal Liturgy tasked to adapt the catechumenal process appropriately for those already baptized. We meet regularly via Zoom and are getting close to finishing “A Guide for Walking with Spiritual Seekers,” intended to be used by a catechetical team as the members work with “seekers” who are already baptized and are at a point in life when they wish to re-connect or connect more deeply with a faith community. This week and next I’ll be sharing some of the wisdom from this working group. The full document should be available online soon; what follows are slightly adapted excerpts from an opening section of the Guide.

The title for today’s post, “Sorting Fish,” relates to three distinct categories for the baptized seeker whom pastors may encounter; the spiritual needs and faith formation process for each seeker will vary, depending on which type of “fish” each one is. To each category we gave a specific naming phrase and description:

  • Those seeking to be received: These “fish” have been raised and formed (more or less) as members in another Christian tradition and now wish to explore joining a new community/denomination.
  • Those wishing to return to participation in the same community in which they were raised: In our discussions we agreed that there are many reasons why people’s faith journey has taken them off the path to life in Christ—such as being hurt or scandalized by the church, or having drifted away out of apathy. In each situation, the pastor or catechetical team member needs to explore those reasons with an individual without being judgmental.
  • Those seeking renewal: These “fish” are like the elder brother in the Prodigal Son—they have never left “home” but now wish to explore ways of deepening their participation in the community’s life.

Once a baptized seeker has expressed interest in connecting with your faith community, a good starting point is having a personal conversation with the seeker to determine where the person fits in the above taxonomy. The next step is to establish the maturity of the seeker’s faith, which is the topic for next week’s blog.

As Christians of the twenty-first century, called by Jesus to be “fishers of people,” developing relationships with seekers—whether already baptized or not yet baptized—is vital to drawing people to the riches of life joined to Christ and His Church.


Image info (public domain)

The Catch of 153 fish by Duccio, 14th century; Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons, Museo dell’Opera del Duomo (Siena, Italy)