Editor’s Note: At Where Peter Is we are excited to support the new initiatives of our longtime contributors and friends–particularly when those efforts are deeply shaped by the method of Pope Francis. Paul Fahey, a co-founder of this site, recently launched his own catechetical initiative which we are happy to promote here. We hope you will consider participating in Paul’s ministry or supporting it by sharing this post with a friend who might be interested. 

There is great tenderness in the experience of God’s love. And it is beautiful to think that the first person to transmit this reality to Jesus was Joseph himself. For the things of God always come to us through the mediation of human experiences.

Pope Francis, General Audience on January 19, 2022

I’m excited to announce a new project that I am launching: Father’s Heart Catechesis!

The summer after I finished high school, I attended a Steubenville Youth Conference. During this conference, specifically in confession, the Lord gave me profound forgiveness and freedom from sins that I had been carrying around for years. This experience changed my life. 

After that conference, I believed without a doubt, that God was real and that he would forgive me whenever I came to Him. I related to the Prodigal Son, who, in the midst of his sins, came to his senses and decided to return to his merciful father. 

I also left the conference with a sense of mission that I did not have before. I wanted to help others experience the same healing and freedom that the Lord gave me. So I went on to study theology, specifically to become a parish minister. 

It’s hard to overstate how good this conference was for me. Yet a whole lot of weeds were planted alongside the good fruit. 

For much of my young adulthood, I had a “performance mentality” in my relationship with God. As long as I performed well (i.e. didn’t sin), I was in God’s good graces; but when I sinned, I lost my relationship with God and had to go to confession to get it back. My faith life was reduced to sin management. I remember periods of time when, on a weekly basis, I truly believed I had mortally sinned and would bother my priest after daily Mass to hear my confession.  

My relationship with God became all about me. I had to follow the rules to stay in God’s good graces. I had to stop sinning. I had to go back to God for his forgiveness after I sinned. I made myself the primary actor in this relationship, not God. 

This performance mentality turned me into the older son in the parable of the Prodigal Son, the son that felt entitled, angry, and bitter. I had forgotten the love of the merciful father. I was rigid and scrupulous, fearful that one mistake would cut me off from God and send me to Hell. I saw God as a judge who probably only really cared about me when I followed all the rules. Then once I had managed all of my sins, I felt like I had earned my relationship with God. 

This mentality almost led me away from God and the Church. I experienced a season of depression and spiritual desolation that I didn’t know how to process. I had successfully managed my sins, so why was this happening to me? I did everything God asked of me. I was the faithful and obedient son, why was God putting me through this suffering? 

During that time God brought people into my life who showed me the relentless love of God, people who presented the mysteries of God and let me pray with them, and individuals who patiently answered my unending questions. They accompanied me in my anger and desolation without getting defensive. They repeatedly brought me back to the truth of who God has revealed himself to be: a loving Father. 

Through them, God eventually broke through to me. He showed me how good he is. He gave me new freedom. He showed me that my relationship with him wasn’t about following the rules or managing my sin, but that first and foremost it was about God chasing after me in order to heal me of my sin and transform me into Christ. God showed me that I didn’t have to convince him to do this. I didn’t have to meet him halfway. I didn’t have to perform. I just had to let him catch me.

The people who walked with me through this desolation were catechists. They were not apologists who felt like they needed to defend God or the Church from my questions, anger, and desolation. Neither were they Pharisees who thought they had all the answers or who shared their own ideas as if they were Church teaching. 

Pope John Paul II, in his first Apostolic Exhortation, Catechesi Tradendae, said that “the definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ: only He can lead us to the love of the Father in the Spirit and make us share in the life of the Holy Trinity” (CT 5). 

That was my experience. And now, that is what I have devoted my own ministry to providing to others. And that’s what I hope to do through my new project, Father’s Heart Catechesis—a small-group catechesis program that I’m starting in June.

This program will, at every level, proclaim God’s love for you and all people. It’s inspired by Pope Francis, centered on the mystery of theosis, and deeply grounded in the magisterial documents of the Church.

Father’s Heart Catechesis is for any Catholic who wants to grow in their relationship with God, who is struggling with their faith or with Church teaching, who feels like they may not belong in the Church anymore, or who simply wants to renew their love for God. 

It’s also for catechists and parish ministers who want to experience life-giving catechesis in order to bring it back to their own communities.

Father’s Heart Catechesis has three different formats.

  1. Online classes. These are interactive, prayerful, and relational small group lessons and discussion—not pre-recorded content that is simply consumed.
  2. A combination of online and in-person. Virtual lessons are available for parishes, schools, small group Bible studies, or just a group of friends.
  3. In-person sessions for groups who are within driving distance of Fowler, Michigan.

The first online course will launch on Thursday, June 2nd. Groups will meet weekly for 12 weeks and the initial topic will be the Creed, drawing from the first section of the Catechism.

Other 12-week courses include “The Liturgy & Sacraments” and “Conscience & the Moral Law.” There are also several eight-week-long mini-courses about Catholic social teaching as well as about specific documents such as Fratelli Tutti or Amoris Laetitia.

12-week courses will be $300 per person and mini-courses will be $150-$200. There are also scholarships available, just contact me.

This fee will allow you to participate in the weekly classes and have access to a private online group where the community and discussion will continue outside of the classes. The per-person cost is the same for the group formats. Groups will need to have at least fifteen people.

If you’re interested in participating in Father’s Heart Catechesis, the next step is to sign up for email updates here. Registration for the online course will open in May.

If you have a group of people who are interested in starting a class, you can email me.

If you like what you have heard about this project, please share this page and tell others about it. You can also financially support me here. All donations will support my family, my future ministry in the Church, and more projects like this.  

Image Credit: “A Father’s Heart” by Kristina Fahey. You can order limited edition prints here!

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Paul Fahey lives in Michigan with his wife and four kids. For the past eight years, he has worked as a professional catechist. He has an undergraduate degree in Theology and is currently working toward a Masters Degree in Pastoral Counseling. He is a retreat leader, catechist formator, writer, and a co-founder of Where Peter Is. He is also the founder and co-host of the Pope Francis Generation podcast. His long-term goal is to provide pastoral counseling for Catholics who have been spiritually abused, counseling for Catholic ministers, and counseling education so that ministers are more equipped to help others in their ministry.

Father’s Heart Catechesis
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