‘Cornucopia of Catholicism’ Explained at Workshop
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
April 5, 2018
ROCKFORD—Ideas flowed aplenty at a March 19 workshop on FORMED, held at St. Rita Parish.
Staffs and pastors learned how to make the most of FORMED, a parish resource for evangelization and faith formation that can be used in most parish ministries.
The digital resource platform is offered by the Augustine Institute. Dan Donaldson, director of FORMED sales and diocesan partnerships, calls it a “cornucopia of Catholic content” that at times has been nicknamed by parishes as “Catholic Netflix” and has been described as “Catholic faith on demand.”
The platform provides more than 100 movies, talks from Lighthouse Media, and e-books, as well as dozens of audio books, and video-based study programs that work well with small and large groups, Donaldson says.
“We add content every week,” he says. Sept. 1, 2015, was the date FORMED began with “six movies, 12 audios and a handful of books.”
The mission of the Augustine Institute is to “help Catholics understand, live and share the faith,” he says, adding that the institute develops a lot of content from more than 50 Catholic entities including Ignatius Press, the Scott Hahn Center for Biblical Theology and the Marian Fathers.
Resources also include the Knights of Columbus, Catholic Answers, CAT Chat, Brother Francis videos, other children’s programs, “and on and on and on,” Donaldson says. 
“We wanted to have a repository where all this content can be accessed and, just as importantly, be shared,” he says. “This is a tool to extend the reach of the pastor (and) a tool for encountering with other people and, most importantly, with Christ.”
Individuals can subscribe to the service for $10 a month; parishes can provide access to all of their parishioners for $170 a month. 
The content can make a difference in people’s lives, says Donaldson as he describes a woman who became a Catholic only to be challenged by her adult son. “She sent him to FORMED,” Donaldson says, “and he became a Catholic last Easter.”
A couple who claim their marriage was saved after they binge-watched all 12 episodes of “Beloved” and a California man who credits FORMED for keeping him from committing suicide are two other stories the Augustine Institute staff has heard, Donaldson says. 
But more “ordinary stories ... also are great,” he says, such as an Oregon parish that started several small parish groups with content on FORMED, and how those groups have continued after participants finished the initial program. 
Such small communities within the larger parish allow participants to feel a sense of belonging and of being heard as they grow in faith, say materials provided by the Augustine Institute. 
At the March 19 workshop, handouts provided examples of content that is useful for adults, discipleship, families, marriage, outreach, RCIA, sacramental instruction and for youth. 
Parish staffs discussed how they might use the various FORMED programs and shared some of those thoughts with the whole room. 
Those ideas included beginning the program with the Knights of Columbus and expanding from there; using FORMED for book study groups; using FORMED to show a movie at a PADS homeless shelter; watching a program as part of a quarterly parish staff meeting; having youths bring their cell phones to religious education class, sign them up and assign as homework the task to sign up others; having youths in the church foyer armed with their tablets to sign parishioners up after Mass; and inviting others beyond the parish to enjoy content through the parish subscription — which is welcomed as a form of evangelization.
Close to 600,000 people in more than 3,500 parishes access FORMED materials, Donaldson says. If it follows the usual pattern, he adds, the March 19 training will help participating parishes increase their creative use of the service’s high-quality Catholic content by 300 to 400 percent.