“Let us boldly become citizens of the digital world. The Church needs to be concerned for, and present in, the world of communication, in order to dialogue with people today and to help them encounter Christ. She needs to be a Church at the side of others, capable of accompanying everyone along the way. The revolution taking place in communications media and in information technologies represents a great and thrilling challenge; may we respond to that challenge with fresh energy and imagination as we seek to share with others the beauty of God.” —Pope Francis, Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for the 48th World Communications Day, June 2014
FORMED, a Catholic digital content service featuring audio, video, e-books and feature-length films from high quality Catholic sources, is quickly becoming a popular new way for parish leaders to help foster the faith formation of Catholics in their area. With more than 210,000 users in parishes across the U.S., FORMED is quickly becoming a go-to resource for dioceses that recognize the value in being able to easily expand the evangelization and catechesis programs available to parishioners, even from the comfort of their own homes.
The online service, originally created by the Augustine Institute to deliver RCIA content to parish leaders, became an instant hit with parishes and RCIA candidates who now had a simple way to share solid Catholic teaching with family, friends, and other parishioners in the community. “We quickly saw the impact this was having—how we were able to reach more people through meeting them where they are at in the digital world,” explained Dr. Edward Sri, Augustine Institute Professor of Theology and Vice President of Mission & Outreach. “That’s when we began to consider putting not just Symbolon [the program used for RCIA] but all of our video programs—YDicsiple, Opening the Word, Beloved, etc.—on a digital platform.”
Now FORMED boasts hundreds of video programs, audio, and e-books, including Bishop Robert Barron’s Catholicism series; Beloved, a video program uncovering the mystery and meaning of marriage; The Jeweler’s Shop, a movie based on Saint John Paul II’s bestselling book; and Rome Sweet Home, Scott and Kimberly Hahn’s widely-read conversion story.
“The growth I’ve experienced in increasing my understanding and knowledge of the Catholic faith can be directly attributed to the high-quality content that FORMED offers its subscribers,” acknowledged Brian Beckham, parishioner in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. “As a visual learner, I love the superb video content FORMED offers, as well as their user-friendly site. Their collection of Lighthouse Catholic CDs, book library, and movie database is unparalleled.”
The hope for FORMED is to continue using the Internet to equip parish leaders with great catechetical material and to digitally preach the Gospel to the masses. “The internet is like the new Roman Roads,” described Sri, believing that the web, similar to the roads built by the pagan Romans, has capacity to spread Christianity quickly, reaching people “where they are at.” “The culture is rapidly changing and we need a sense of urgency—a willingness to do things differently—in order to bring the love of Christ and the Catholic faith to as many souls as possible. FORMED [is] not just a tool for catechesis in the parish halls, but also a way for parish leaders to form their parishioners at work, at home, at play—not just at the church.”
Beckham noted that Opening the Word, a collection of video reflections on the Sunday readings, is one of his favorite programs on the digital service. “I view this program weekly as part of my gospel reflection. The reflections are rich, the presenters are top-notch, and the film quality is incredible!” Sri also discussed his excitement about having Opening the Word now available on FORMED. “We hear a lot of feedback from families who watch the reflections together to prepare for Sunday Mass. We even hear from priests and deacons who have told us it’s enriching their homilies!
Partnership with Ignatius Press and inclusion of the popular collection of talks from Lighthouse Catholic Media have allowed the content on FORMED to continue to grow, and more potential partners are forthcoming. FORMED hopes to have an app soon, so parishioners and parish leaders can easily access content on their mobile devices. The creators are also looking to add more programs in Spanish and more children’s programing on a regular basis.
As parish leaders appreciate the many video programs for sacramental prep, adult faith formation, Bible studies, and small groups available on FORMED, in addition to unlimited downloads of study guides, parishioners continue to love the ease of use and the platforms ability to aid in spiritual growth. “FORMED has inspired me to increase my time spent in spiritual reading,” mentioned Beckham. “It has planted the desire in me to grow in holiness, which has greatly benefited me as a husband and father.”
To learn more about FORMED or sign up for a free trial, visit http://www.formed.org.