SOUTH BEND, IN (03-07-2018) Sister Damien Marie Savino, FSE and Sister Sophia Peters, FSE participated in the McGrath Institute for Church Life’s conference, co-sponsored by the USCCB, held at University of Notre Dame March 5-7, 2018. The “Cultures of Formation: Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment” conference welcomed over 500 attendees comprising bishops, priests, religious men and women, youth ministers, campus ministers, pastoral counselors, seminarians, professors and students. According to the conference web site, in preparation for the 2018 General Assembly of Bishops in Rome which will focus on youth in the Church, the event aimed “to assess

  • the pervasive cultural influences that form young people today
  • the end to which the Church’s evangelization and formation efforts are ordered
  • the possibilities for renewing the Church’s mission in forming young people for vocational discernment”
Sister Damien Marie presents

At the first breakout session Sister Damien Marie presented a paper on “Evangelizing through Land-Based Experiences and Dialogue with Science.” She summarized her topic as follows: “Young people today are growing up in a technology-saturated culture which increasingly separates itself from face-to-face communication and see-touch realities. Is this contributing to the marginalization of the Catholic Church in today’s culture and the waning interest of youth in institutional religion? This paper considers catechetical approaches using science and elemental land experiences as one strategy for the new evangelization and for building a culture conducive to faithful vocational discernment for young people.”

Sister illustrated her points with scenes of the land of the Franciscan Sisters’ farm center near Lowell, Michigan. The center provides experiences for young people to work with the soil, orchard, gardens and animals on scheduled work days with the Sisters as well as on individualized special projects.  Sister Damien Marie is the Dean of Science and Sustainability at Aquinas College, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Sister Sophia is a marriage and family therapist at Franciscan Life Center, Meriden, Connecticut. She assists the Sister-formators with the coordination of daily life at the John Lateran formation house, and works with young professionals and couples in their desire to contribute to the life of the Church.

Franciscan Sisters with Bishop Barron

Sister Damien Marie (left) and Sister Sophia with Bishop Robert Barron, Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles, a keynote presenter at the conference.