Formed: A Catholic Digital Library at Your Fingertips
Saturday’s “Ignite Your Heart” conference at McAuley High School brought apologists. Scott and Kimberly Hahn to Cincinnati for a day of talks and presentations about how and why Catholics should read Scripture.
Books, DVDs, and other Scripture study materials for individuals and groups from their company, the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, were available for sale, and a spokesperson for Formed — the virtual Catholic library Archbishop Dennis Schnurr has helped make available to most parishes in the archdiocese, was also on hand to sell materials and explain how the online program works.
Formed is a subscription service for audio, video, and text materials — including books, Catholic movies, complete Bible study programs, and more — from Lighthouse Catholic Media, Ignatius Press, and the Augustine Institute. Materials from other creators, including Word on Fire and the St. Paul Center, are among the offerings.
Subscriptions are $9.99 a month, but parishes can also subscribe for $139 a month, giving access to the materials to everyone in the parish boundaries, members of the parish or not. Archbishop Shnurr gave a grant that covers subscriptions for most of the first year to nearly all parishes in the archdiocese (and has offered it t to the remaining 30 or so parishes that have not subscribed), making the Archdiocese of Cincinnati the largest diocese to use the new service.
Louise Karas, spokesperson for Formed, says the service is not meant to be a money-maker for the publishers, who continue to sell all their materials, including on the Formed site, but as a way to spread the Gospel and the Catholic faith.
“You can use them so many ways,” she explained. “You can watch them at home. You can use them for marriage preparation and RCIA. Pastors can have people watch them at home and discuss them at church. Each study program has the leader guide and workbooks online, so it’s easy for anyone to lead a small group study.
“And the best part is that you can use them for evangelization. You can go door to door and let every person in your parish boundaries know about this. You can invite everyone to the Catholic Church.”
The group study programs even include posters, bulletin announcements, and other promotional materials that leaders and pastors can download, Karas says — taking all the work out of promoting and leading small group discussions in homes or parishes.
“It’s something you can do at home, as a couple, as a parish – the materials are really inspiring,” said Jo Brennan, a parishioner at St. Ignatius of Loyola Church in Cheviot, which sponsored the Saturday conference. “The materials are fantastic. We’ve grown so much in our faith since beginning the subscription. A lot of that is from listening to the Lighthouse CDs.”
Brennan’s husband, Denny, is equally enthusiastic about the service. “It’s a one-stop library,” he said. “There’s unbelievable access to any need you have — training, Scripture, books, movies — anything from small kids to adults. It’s really a wealth of knowledge at your fingertips.”
Linda Trenn, also of St. Ignatius, praised the services’ “unbelieveable resources.”
“When I logged on I watched a movie, then I did the Divine Mercy program,” she said. “They have some things on atheism and how to pull people back to the Church… there are so many resources for so many people. And it’s so easy to lead small groups. It’s all laid out for you. I’m so happy we heard about it.”
In organizing the conference, St. I parishioners hoped to inspire other parishes, groups, and people to lead small group discussions and formation studies. Each attendee was given a form to fill out if he or she wanted to participate in or lead a group, and all who turned one in will be contacted.
Having Formed as a resource, Karas said, will make it easy for interested people to find and lead discussions — or to study at home alone, as couples or families, or with friends. And more is on the horizon. Weekly webinars show people different ways to use the existing materials in their parishes, and new materials (such as Spanish-language versions of studies and programs) are being added. This fall Formed will add YDisciple, a small group-based youth formation program in use at parishes around the country.
“We’ve been blessed to have benefactors who have made subscriptions inexpensive for parishes,” Karas said. “I encourage everyone to see what it has to offer.”
For the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s web page on Formed, which describes the service as “ a ‘Netflix’ of trustworthy and dynamic Catholic teaching,” click here. To find out whether your parish has a subscription to Formed and get the parish code that will allow you to sign in, contact your parish office.
To subscribe to Formed yourself, go to Formed.org.
Photos © The Catholic Beat. Click here for our story on the Ignite Your Heart Conference.
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