By Brian Lemoi
JOHN ROBERTO (B.1950)
John Roberto has been and continues to be an innovator in Catholic Religious Education and Youth Ministry. John is best known for his practical application of the vision and theory for ministry with and for people of all ages and stages in their lifelong growth in faith with a particular expertise in formation praxis for youth in the teen age years. He founded the Northeast Center for Youth Ministry, later knows as the Center for Youth Ministry Development that continues today as the Center for Ministry Development. More recent endeavors have focused on strategies for implementing a vision for lifelong faith formation and developing ministry approaches for the 21st Century.
John Roberto was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut on July 22, 1950. His early life was lived in the context of his family home and his extended Catholic family in his parish and Catholic schooling. In 1968, John graduated from Kolbe Catholic High School and it was in his first years at Fairfield University that he became actively involved in ministry through part-time work in the youth programs of the Diocese of Bridgeport. John majored in Sociology and Religious Studies and graduated from Fairfield in 1972 with a Bachelor of Arts with concentration in those fields. His academic life continued during 1972-1974 as he pursued graduate studies in Sociology at the Catholic University of America.
In 1973 John began full time work as the Director of Youth Ministry for the Diocese of Bridgeport and continued in that leadership role until 1976. On November 29, 1975 John married Linda Dempsey who became his spouse and frequently, and consistently, a partner and supporter of John’s work and ministry. From 1976 until 1978 John served as the Youth Catechesis Specialist in the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia.
It was in 1978 that John founded and began serving as the Director of the Northeast Center for Youth Ministry located in Patterson, New Jersey. In 1979 John received the Emmaus Award, given by the United States Catholic Conference’s National Catholic Youth Organization for outstanding contributions to the field of Youth Ministry. John completed a Master of Arts Degree in Religious Education from Fordham University, New York. In 1985, John was still serving as the Director of the Northeast Center for Youth Ministry when he changed the name and expanded the vision/mission of the Center to the Center for Youth Ministry and moved the Center to Naugatuck, Connecticut. In 1990 John received the National Youth Ministry Award from the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry. The Outstanding Contribution to Family Ministry award was presented to John Roberto and the Center for Ministry Development by the National Association of Catholic Family Life Ministers in 1994. In 1997, under John’s leadership, the Center name was again changed and the mission and services of the programs were expanded. The Center for Ministry Development began its transitions into 21st Century visioning, planning and services with its new name demonstrating continuing shifts in the field of catechesis and youth ministry.
As part of his new ministry focus, John and his colleagues created the Generations of Faith Project in 2001 as an initiative of the Center for Ministry Development, authoring and publishing books and manuals for the project over the course of a five year Lilly Endowment grant. In 2006 John received the Sapientia et Doctrina Award, from the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education, Fordham University.
In 2006 that John resigned as Director of the Center for Ministry Development launching it into continuing service with new leadership while John focused his efforts to establishing Lifelong Faith Associates, LLC and wrote, researched and consulted on initiatives that focused on coordinating projects and innovative programs that envision and develop faith formation strategies for the 21st Century. In this capacity John has served as the managing editor of Lifelong Faith Journal, as project coordinator of the Faith Formation 2020 Project and the coordinator for the LifelongFaith.com and FaithFormation2020.net websites. John serves as a consultant to parishes and congregations developing lifelong faith formation initiatives and is a frequent conference presenter on the topics of lifelong faith formation and faith formation visioning for the 21st century.
In 2010 John became a staff member of Vibrant Faith Ministries working with a network of colleagues with the organization home being in Minneapolis, MN. Contemporaneously with the publication of this entry, he serves as the project coordinator for the Faith Formation Learning Exchange, an online resource and the project coordinator and presenter for the Leadership for 21st Century Faith Formation training program.
Contributions to Christian Education
Early Ministry—Youth Ministry in Transitional Times
John Roberto’s career in ministry began when he was 19 years old and a student at Fairfield University. From 1969 until 1972 he worked as a part time diocesan coordinator for youth retreat programs and service programs that engaged young people in Christian service for the Diocese of Bridgeport. When asked to reflect on these days of ministry with young people, John emphasized that these were exciting times for youth retreat programs and service programs that benefitted from the enthusiasm generated by the recently concluded sessions and the promulgation of the Documents of Vatican II. John cites the “forward-looking” perspective of Vatican II as having profoundly shaped him and his ministry outlook.
John pursued graduate studies in sociology at the Catholic University of America for a year but felt the urgency of being involved in the as yet seminal days of Youth Ministry that was being formed upon a new vision of working with and ministering with and for teens in ways that drew them deeper in the life of Catholic faith. This new style of youth program was re-imagining and re-shaping the former CYO and CCD models that had been the bulwark of religious education and community socialization for Catholic children and adolescents. John was inspired by the energy that was being given to re-framing what had formerly been programs for youth that focused on athletics, the arts and socialization. John’s imagination was captured and became a strong proponent of gathering young people for the purposes of deepening their spirituality and acting on the faith that they professed, especially in efforts to be of service to the poor and marginalized as the call of Vatican II voiced this Gospel imperative.
The issuance of the document, To Teach as Jesus Did: A Pastoral Message on Catholic Education (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops - USCC-1972) called for a relational ministry with young people emphasizing the responsibility of ministers in fostering an understanding of and lived experience of Community, Message and Service in addition to Worship which in the vision of that pastoral message, was the foundation of the life of faith and the source of the grace and spiritual energy to witness with and within the Christian Community; spreading and sharing the Message of Jesus Christ, and Serving others as inspired by Jesus. John Roberto’s earliest praxis and written contributions thus inspired began to demonstrate his gift for practical application of visionary ideas.
John’s work in the Diocese of Bridgeport and the Diocese of Richmond served for him, and his later ministry contributions, as the proving ground for this new style of ministry for and with young people. His outstanding work was quickly recognized by the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops-Department of Education and this led to his being included on the writing team that developed the USCC document, A Vision for Youth Ministry, issued in 1976. This articulated the newer relational approaches that had been applied by John and other Youth Ministry visionaries of the era. Two goals were specified, 1.) the purpose of fostering the total personal and spiritual growth of young people and 2.) attract young people to participation in the life, mission and work of the Catholic Church. Inherent in the document was a perspective that called for a ministry response that was comprehensive and holistic. The seven components that were elucidated were:
-Worship (prayer and the Eucharist)
-Creating Community (among youth and between generations)
-Guidance and Healing (pastoral care)
-Justice and Service (direct service and social change)
-Enablement (leadership development of youth and adults)
-Advocacy (speaking on behalf of young people)
With this set of goals and components, a foundation for new directions and ministry application was forged. John, many would contend, imparted a practical and experience-taught perspective to this work. His projects and publications in the period just after the 1976 document witnessed to the deepening of his and his colleagues understanding of the ideas forwarded by the bishops. Aligned to the perspectives therein, John edited the Catholic Families Series and Youth Ministry Series, that served as a journal of ongoing praxis and articles that furthered the implementation of youth ministry practices. Several workshops and programs in this period addressed issues pertinent to effective ministry with youth. The Global Horizons justice education program, the Certificate in Family Faith Development clearly tied ministry with young people to the family and the home as the source of initial and ongoing faith formation. Alignment to the component “creating community” by fostering formation of young people with and for as well as through and in the family were just a beginning in developing the formation and the connection of young people with the work of justice in an increasingly global society as essential to discipleship in the modern age.
Connecting Theory and Practice: Projects and Studies Lead to New Praxis
Concurrent with his own direct ministry efforts and budding written contributions in the field, John sought to become more fully engaged in the national efforts to re-imagine ministry with teens and with two friends and colleagues in ministry, Brian Reynolds and Rosie Cingari, founded the Northeast Center for Youth Ministry (NCYM-1978) in Patterson, NJ, for the explicit purpose of developing training programs for parish youth ministry leaders and parish program resources. While the U.S. Bishops envisioned a number of regional Centers for Youth Ministry throughout the country, this was the only one ever established. He was intrigued with the then prevailing thinking about the development of regional centers for youth ministry to be spread across the U.S. Here at the invitation of Bishop Rodimer and the Patterson Diocesan Office of Religious Education, John and his colleagues began the work of creating and implementing these goals and became very active in consulting with parishes as they sought to develop their youth ministry programs. Since the national plan for regional centers never came to fruition, the Northeast Center became a leading agent in putting the USCC vision into action for the entire nation and Canada.
John and his colleagues understood the necessity of developing a leadership formation process for inculcating the Vision and in 1979 they inaugurated the Certificate in Youth Ministry Studies program –a two year leadership formation course of study for adult leaders in youth ministry. This was the first and what proved to be lasting fruit of the center’s efforts. Along with this training model for the leaders, a Christian Leadership Institute for youth themselves was developed. This program involved 10th through 12th grade youth in a weeklong summer leadership program that was designed to both advocate for the leadership potential of young people in society and the Church, and form the young to return to their parishes and communities empowered to exercise this Christian leadership in their parishes and communities. The programs were unique and eventually led to the participation of over 80 Catholic Dioceses. The Certificate in Youth Ministry Studies Program continues today and has trained several generations of youths and adults in youth ministry leadership. John’s continuing innovation and revamping of the Certificate Program has adapted and adopted new strategies from the realm of ecclesial ministry as well as strategies that have prepared young people to grow in faith and Christian response to Jesus in the closing decades of the 20th Century and move into the 21st Century with a vision and hope for their future.
In 1980, John and the Northeast Center for Youth Ministry co-sponsored the Hope for the Decade symposium with the USCC for the purpose of looking ahead to the new decade of development in youth ministry. The product of this gathering of theorists and practitioners spawned many projects, publications and new training programs for the Center, John and many others in the field. The 1980’s were an exciting time for youth ministry and there was great expansion of direct ministry programs at the parish and diocesan level. Significantly the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM) a newly founded professional organization for youth ministers was established on January 20, 1982 that was reflective of the shifts from the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) era of catechetics to what was becoming a new approach to age appropriate catechesis woven into ministry models that were likewise age appropriate in their approach. More youth ministers were being hired and therefore, lacking a well-worn path of lay ministerial leadership formation in colleges or universities the NFCYM Certificate program offerings expanded into many dioceses in the U.S. and Canada. As the Center became more and more the source of training, publications, programs and events for youth ministry and recognized nationally and even internationally, the name was changed to the Center for Youth Ministry Development (CYMD) in the mid-80’s to reflect the national scope of the work of John and his colleagues. 1983-84 brought another collaborative opportunity to gather ministry leaders for a symposium and so, in partnership with The National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM), the National Conference for Diocesan (Catechetical) Directors (NCDD, in the 1990’s renamed NCCL), and the USCC the Faith Maturing Symposium was convened to study the faith formation (catechesis) of young people. In 1986, as evidence of the maturing of the understanding of the Justice and Service component of the Vision John and the Center collaborated with NFCYM on a Justice & Youth Symposium to explore the best ways to educate young people for justice and engage them in service.
In 1984 John in collaboration with the Center staff (Marisa Guerin, Zeni Fox and Brian Reynolds) created the first “new” resource in youth ministry with the publication of Leadership for Youth Ministry-St. Mary’s Press. This was a publication that was the culmination of a nearly a decade of study and implementation of the Vision document especially what was gleaned from the work of training youth leaders and consultation with parishes as they established youth ministry. In 1986, John worked with a national team from USCC, NFCYM, NCCL and the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) that wrote the Challenge of Adolescent Catechesis and related training programs and resources. This work has been considered by many to be a pivotal contribution that ushered in a renewed emphasis on providing catechesis for young people along with other objectives of comprehensive youth ministry; in effect, the substance that was transmitted in the process of ministering for and with young people.
Several publications authored by John or to which he contributed or edited are indicative of his genius and commitment to furthering the work or ministry with and for young people with the direction given in the USCCB document. The maturing of the nascent direction provided by the Vision document is evident in work in the late 1980’s and 1990’s. These are significant in that they demonstrate the development of John’s research and praxis from application of ministry approaches predominantly with and for youth to the broader implications for ministry across the generations. His work with the Center for Ministry Development continued, but his vision and consequently the Center’s mission expanded to embrace catechetical models that could be used to form people of all ages and phases of their lives. Some elements from the initial Vision document remained central and foundational, for example, his emphasis on catechesis within the family generations (later the language shifted to the expression, households of faith in order to recognize the diversity of home relationships that the term family did not as expansively embrace.
Slightly more than ten years after the Bishop’s document was issued, John in the Access Guides to Youth Ministry (Don Bosco Multimedia, 1989-1990) series of books that he authored or edited, brought ecclesial language into conversation with practical implications for ministry with the young in the two goals and seven components of A Vision of Youth Ministry. This demonstrated his own growth and the growth of the field of Catholic Youth Ministry as he and his colleagues implemented the Vision and in turn, added a best practices understanding of these ideals. One particular feature of his work in the series of books explored and enhanced an understanding of Evangelization. His application of strategies and language applied to ministry with teens greatly enhanced the understandings expounded by the post-conciliar popes with regard to evangelization including re-evangelization of Catholics. Application of a truly Catholic outlook on embracing modern society and preparing the young Church for the 21st Century evidenced seminal conclusions about the meeting of vision and praxis that would continue to his most recent and present work. So too did his work in the series that offered a practical application of the rich traditions of, Justice (1989, author, editor), Liturgy and Worship (1990, editor) and Growing and Sharing Faith, (1990, author, editor).
Journey from a Youth Ministry Focus to Lifelong Faith Formation
With a grant received in 1988, John and the Center were able to explore new ways to develop family faith. Through the multi-year project that began with at national Family Symposium and regional conferences across the U.S. culminated in the publication of a series of 15 resources for use in parishes and homes, The Catholic Family Series (Don Bosco Multimedia, 1992). John, when interviewed said “for me this project began a journey from a primary focus on youth ministry to family faith formation, and eventually, lifelong faith formation.
One of John’s last projects that was expressly focused on youth ministry was the development and publication with Mike Moseley of YouthWorks, a three-volume binder of reproducible masters that provided vision, strategies, planning/assessment processes, and program activities for all aspects of a comprehensive youth ministry. This was one of the most successful of John’s projects to that date in that YouthWorks was used by 5,000 parishes across the country.
John’s last major project in youth ministry was serving on the writing team for Renewing the Vision the U. S. Catholic Bishops’ 1997 pastoral plan for youth ministry. John once observed that “Renewing the Vision captured the insights from research and practice that had emerged since the 1976 document A Vision for Youth Ministry, and provided an expanded understanding, direction and framework for 21st century youth ministry. For me, Renewing the Vision and the incorporation of its vision in the National Directory for Catechesis, by the USCCB, in 2005 was a confirmation of the original vision from 1976 and recognition of all the growth that occurred since then.
In the mid-1990s reflective of John’s self-described “journey” the Center for Youth Ministry Development changed its name to the Center for Ministry Development (CMD) denoting its expanded vision and mission continuing its service to youth ministry but embracing faith formation across the whole life span. John was committed to exploring, researching, and creating ministry pathways to provide faith formation at home, and intergenerational faith formation that would bring all generations together for learning. This work evolved from his initial work in family faith formation and expanded the vision of youth ministry that viewed family and intergenerational relationships in the parish community as critically important settings for ministry with youth. John stated when asked to reflect on this shift in his research and work that “It was, and still is, my belief that we need new models of faith formation to involve all generations in learning together and promote faith growth at home and that the “classroom model” is ill equipped for that task.” (Louis Weeks, “A Conversation with John Roberto,” posted on the Resources for American Christianity website, https://www.resourcingchristianity.org content provided by J. Roberto)
A New Millennium, New Models
Thus began John’s research and development of the Generations of Faith Project (GOF) a model for lifelong faith formation with an intergenerational emphasis. Through the development of resources and two-day training programs across the country John and the CMD staff in 2000 and 2002 published a two binder set of program manuals for Generations of Faith that allowed his vision and praxis to be replicated in many pioneering parishes. When in 2001, John and CMD received a five year grant from the Lilly Endowment for the Generations of Faith Project; a national phase of the project was launched. A cadre of instructors/trainers was prepared to train leaders and teams in methods and practices of intergenerational catechesis. Ultimately, over 1500 parishes in 60 Catholic Dioceses were utilizing the program training and consequently, Generations of Faith ushered in a new approach to catechesis and faith formation that focused on whole community, intergenerational learning events woven into traditional school-like parish faith formation programs or in some cases became the intentional model for all parish faith formation for children, youth and adults.
Regarding his vision for faith formation John wrote in his article, Best Practices in Intergenerational Faith Formation (Lifelong Faith, Vol.1.3, Fall/Winter, 2007,) “Intergenerational Faith Formation may seem “new” to contemporary Christian Churches, but it has deep roots in our Jewish and Christian heritage. The call for one generation to share its faith and story with future generations is deeply embedded in the Jewish tradition [as is] Moses’ instruction to parents and grandparents [in the Shema Deuteronomy, 6:1-9]…From the first century onward, Christian faith communities have been intergenerational communities…Intergenerational faith formation was an integral element of the Christian church from the very first days. The Israelites and the first Christian communities may not have used the term “intergenerational faith formation” to describe the transmission of the faith story and way of life to the next generation, but it most certainly was.”
Throughout the first decade of the 2000s John worked as a member of the Exemplary Youth Ministry project, an ecumenical research project designed to identify the key factors in promoting faith maturity in young people. Among the most important findings was the importance of an intergenerational, congregational culture and of the family in fostering a vibrant Christian faith in young people. The project results were reported in The Spirit and Culture of Youth Ministry, which John co-authored with Rollie Martinson and Wes Black. The richness of this ecumenical project provided a foundation for John to begin to serve a wider Christian audience.
John left the Center for Ministry Development in 2006 in order to research whole community and intergenerational models and as had always been his forte, he sought ways to implement and develop sound praxis models for the implementation of models that he and many proposed as being a response to post millennial generations who sought to seek faith, but were frequently doing so outside of organized churches. After a good deal of consultation with congregations from many denominations, and some research into methods to analyze prevailing paradigms and propose new directions to meet new and rising needs, John set out on a new project that he entitled Faith Formation 2020. Utilizing a model for Scenario Planning that had been the basis for the Christian Brothers (FSC) as they planned the future of their Catholic School educational efforts, John assembled a group of practitioners and theorists from a variety of Christian denominations to gather for a two day “think tank” that along with John tried to imagine the future of faith formation. John, in an interview with Louis Weeks, that became part of “A Conversation with John Roberto” posting on the Resources for American Christianity website, https://www.resourcingchristianity.org (content provided by J. Roberto) is quoted as saying regarding the Faith Formation 2020 project, “It’s not a prescription of where we will be. It’s a tool to help a local church say, ‘These are the forces that are affecting us. How can we name them? How do we interpret them in our situation? And how can we address people who belong in each of the scenarios?”
The data collected, the conversations fostered and the response to the implications of the Faith Formation 2020 project spawned a series of speaking engagements, consultations and ultimately as series of national training workshops providing insights and impetus to develop new means and methods of evangelizing and catechizing the Christian faith that include the use of new technologies, new designs for small and large group gathered sessions for faith formation and spiritual development of congregants and seekers of all ages and phases of life. The roots of John’s youth ministry expertise including the promotion of “gathered and non-gathered” ministry models, intergenerational and life-milestone planning and scenario understandings have been brought into conversation with the diversity present in every Christian denomination. John in so doing launched more and more related projects and initiatives including the publication, initially in hard copy and later electronic format the Journal of Lifelong Faith: The Theory and Practice of Lifelong Faith Formation as well as the development of websites for which he curates content or serves as the project coordinator. These include, The Faith Formation Learning Exchange, http://www.faithformationlearningexchange.net/ and Lifelong Faith, http://www.lifelongfaith.com/
At the writing of this entry (2013), John’s latest project involves integrating the research and practices of the Faith Formation 2020 project with the latest advances in digital technologies to create new models of 21st century faith formation. He has developed a 3-day training program, in partnership with Vibrant Faith Ministries, to assist congregational leaders from all Christian denominations to reimagine faith formation for all ages and generations in a connected, networked world.
The life and work of John Roberto may best be summarized in the words of John himself when he wrote “Over the past decade I have been engaged in developing an approach to congregational faith formation that is lifelong, ecclesial and intergenerational. The theoretical foundations for this approach have been evolving since the early 1970s. The work of religious educators C. Ellis Nelson, John Westerhoff, Charles Foster, Berard Marthaler, Francoise D’Arcy Berube, Christianne Brusselmans, Maria Harris and Catherine Dooley has provided a solid foundation upon which to build an approach to lifelong faith formation.” (Lifelong Faith, Volume 2.1, Spring 2008) The research, ministry application, writings and oratory of John Roberto places him in like company of those that he has named as catechetical giants. John’s gift for practical application of the theoretical foundations of his predecessors and contemporaries in faith formation has been and will long be a gift to Christian faith formation.
Publications Since 2000 (in reverse chronological order)
Roberto, J. (2011- ) (Collaborative website resource) www.21stcenturyfaithformation.com. Partnership of LifelongFaith Associates (Naugatuck, CT.) with Vibrant Faith Ministries (Minneapolis, MN)
Roberto, J. (2010). Faith Formation 2020: Designing the Future of Faith Formation. Naugatuck, CT: Lifelong Faith Associates.
Black, W., Martinson, R. & Roberto, J. (2010). The Spirit and Culture of Youth Ministry: Exemplary Youth Ministry Project, St. Paul, MN: EYM Publishing
Roberto, J. (2009). (Author & Ed.) Living Well: Christian Practices for Everyday Life. Naugatuck, CT, LifelongFaith Associates.
Roberto, J. (2007- ) (Ed. & Curator). http://www.lifelongfaith.com/. Naugatuck, CT: LifelongFaith Associates.
Roberto, J. (2007- ). Lifelong Faith Journal, 1.1 Spring 2007-7.2 Summer 2013. Naugatuck, CT: LifelongFaith Associates.
Roberto, J. (2007- ).Faith Formation Learning Exchange, http://www.faithformationlearningexchange.net/ Naugatuck, CT: Lifelong Faith
Kehrwald, L., Martineau, M. & Roberto, J. (2007). Living the Moral Life – Intergenerational Program Manual, People of Faith Series. Orlando, FL: Harcourt Religion Publishers.
Roberto, J. (2006). Becoming a Church of Lifelong Learners. New London, CT: Twenty-Third Publications.
Roberto, J. (2006). Professing Our Faith – Intergenerational Program Manual, People of Faith Series. Orlando, FL: Harcourt Religion Publishers.
Roberto, J. (2005). Generations of Faith Resource Manual. New London, CT: Twenty-Third Publications.
Roberto, J. (2005). Acting for Justice – Intergenerational Program Manual, People of Faith Series. Orlando, FL: Harcourt Religion Publishers.
Roberto, J. (2005). Following Jesus – Intergenerational Program Manual, People of Faith Series. Orlando, FL: Harcourt Religion Publishers.
Roberto, J. (2000, 2002). Generations of Faith, Volumes 1 and 2 (Program Manuals). Naugatuck, CT: CMD Publications.
Earlier Publications (In reverse chronological order)
East, T & Roberto, J. (1994). Guides to Youth Ministry: Leadership. New Rochelle, NY: Don Bosco Multimedia.
Roberto, J. (1994). Planning a Youth Ministry. New Rochelle, NY: Don Bosco Multimedia.
Roberto, J. (1994). Volunteer Leadership. New Rochelle, NY: Don Bosco Multimedia.
Reed, S. & Roberto, J. (1993). (co-authors and co-editors), Pastoral Care Resource. New Rochelle, NY: Don Bosco Multimedia.
Roberto, J. (1992) Foundations of Youth Ministry Leadership. New Rochelle, NY: Don Bosco Multimedia.
Roberto, J. (1992). Media, Faith, and Families-A Parish Ministry Guide. New Rochelle, NY: Don Bosco Multimedia.
Kehrwald, L. & Roberto, J. (1992). (co-authors and co-editors), Families and Youth—A Resource Manual. New Rochelle, NY: Don Bosco Multimedia (Salesiana Publishers).
Roberto, J. (1992) (Ed.) Rituals for Sharing Faith: A Parish Ministers Guide. New Rochelle, NY: Don Bosco Multimedia.
Roberto, J. (1992) (Ed.) Family Celebrations and Rituals. New Rochelle, NY: Don Bosco Multimedia.
Roberto, J. (1992) (Ed.). Media, Faith, and Families—A Parent's Guide. New Rochelle, NY: Don Bosco Multimedia.
Roberto, J. (1992) (Ed.). Media, Faith, and Families—A Parish Guide. New Rochelle, NY: Don Bosco Multimedia.
Roberto, J. (1991) (Ed.). Access Guides to Youth Ministry: Early Adolescent Ministry. New Rochelle, NY: Don Bosco Multimedia.
Roberto, J. (1990) (Author and Ed.). Catholic Families: Growing and Sharing Faith. New Rochelle, NY: Don Bosco Multimedia.
Roberto, J. (1990) (Ed.). Guides to Youth Ministry: Liturgy & Worship. New Rochelle, NY: Don Bosco Multimedia.
Roberto, J. (1989) (Author and Ed.). Guides to Youth Ministry: Justice. New Rochelle, NY: Don Bosco Multimedia.
Roberto, J. (1989) (Author and Ed.). Guides to Youth Ministry: Evangelization. New Rochelle, NY: Don Bosco Multimedia.
Roberto, J. (1988). Adolescent Catechesis Resource Manual. New York, NY: William H. Sadlier, Inc.
Roberto, J. (1985) Author and Ed.) Faith Maturing: A Personal and Communal Task. Washington, DC: National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM).
Guerin, M., Fox, Z., Reynolds, B. & Roberto, J. (1984). Leadership for Youth Ministry. Winona, MN: St. Mary’s Press.
Roberto, J. (1982). (Ed.). Hope for the Decade, Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference.
Excerpts from Publications
While many of John’s earlier works are included in the bibliography for this entry, it is the insight of his later publications that provide the clearest evidence of his accrued expertise beginning with foundations in youth ministry practice, expansion to family ministry and catechetical application to the maturity of his work that combines praxis for lifelong and intergenerational models for ecclesial communities and households of faith.
In summarizing his vision for Lifelong Faith Formation for all Generations, a vision born of practical experience in shepherding the Generations of Faith Project, John wrote,
“Faith formation is a comprehensive and integrated process that is much more than simply instruction. It incorporates 1) formation through participation in the life of the faith community, 2) education in Scripture and the Christian tradition, 3) apprenticeship in the Christian life, 4) knowledge of and intimate connection with liturgy and rituals, 5) development of a life of prayer, 6) moral formation in Jesus Christ, and 7) engagement in actions of justice and service.
This vision in brought to life through four essential practices:
1. an events-centered curriculum for all ages in the church community
2. an events-centered intergenerational learning process that incorporates preparation for an event, experience of the event and application of its meaning in daily living
3. household faith formation involving learning, celebrating rituals, praying and serving
4. collaborative, empowering and team-based leadership
This vision and four practices form the basis of the Generation of Faith approach to faith formation that my colleagues and I developed at the Center for Ministry Development.” (Lifelong Faith Journal, Volume 2.1, Spring 2008)
John demonstrated his aptitude for “reading the signs of the times” when in 2006 he wrote about the then current context in which faith formation efforts were situated. He stated,
“Faith formation today no longer exists in the interdependence of the ecology that once nurtured people in the Catholic faith. All but gone are the overlapping support environments of Catholic, multi-generational families living together in the neighborhood where the parish was the center of Catholic and community life and the Catholic school provided an education for children. This was a world in which Catholics shared a common language of faith, sacramental symbols, parish experiences and tradition.” (Becoming a Church of Lifelong Learners, p.4, 2006)
Equally astute were the questions that he formulated as a result of the preceding observations; questions that engendered a new vision that he has proposed in light of these realities. His examination of rapid social and cultural change as expedited by modern means of communication and social media, the increase of secularization and pluralism in American society, the influence of interactive and image-driven culture and the loss of authority derived from tradition did not lead him to a dim hope for the future, but rather to opine,
“We are at the beginning of a major transformation in faith formation in the Catholic Church. Parishes, large and small, urban and suburban, big city and small town, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual are embracing and implementing events-centered, lifelong intergenerational faith formation. Our understanding of the theory and practice of lifelong faith formation continues to develop as more and more parishes make the paradigm shift….this book is an attempt to articulate the vision and practices for lifelong faith formation as it is developing out of the thinking of religious educators: the paradigm pioneers, the catechetical vision of the Catholic Church in the General Directory for Catechesis and the National Directory for Catechesis, and the experiences of parishes implementing lifelong faith formation….the emerging vision that is guiding the transformation of parish formation has the following characteristics:
· nurturing the Catholic identity of all parishioners for a lifetime;
· utilizing the whole life of the Church as its faith formation curriculum, that is, Church year, feasts and seasons, sacraments, liturgy, justice and service, prayer and spirituality, community life;
· re-engaging all generations in participating in Catholic community life, especially Sunday Mass;
· involving all of the generations in learning together through intergenerational learning;
· equipping and supporting families, and especially parents, in creating a pattern of family faith sharing and a Catholic way of life;
· addressing the hungers of the post-Vatican II Catholics for experience, participation , interaction, connection, community, spirituality, meaning and practices for living;
· transforming the parish community into a community of life-long learners, engaging everyone as teacher and learner. (Becoming a Church of Lifelong Learners, 2006, p. 153-154)
John’s preference for practical application of theory, and even deeper commitment to “hands-on learning” that leads to new innovation and design were particularly evident in the process that he applied to forecasting the near future of Faith Formation in his project and publications entitled Faith Formation 2020. John explained the project by writing,
“To help church leaders envision the future of faith formation we have employed a process called scenario thinking. Jay Ogilvy and Peter Schwartz of Global Business Network describe scenarios as “narratives of alternative business environments in which today’s decisions may be played out. They are not predictions. Nor are they strategies. Instead they are more like hypotheses of different futures specifically designed to highlight the risks and opportunities involved in specific strategic issues.” The point is not to gather evidence for some “most probable” future. The point is rather to entertain a number of different possibilities in order to make better choices about the future of faith formation in the face of inevitable uncertainties. (Lifelong Faith: Faith Formation 2020, Volume 3.2, Summer 2009, page 3)
In following through with this scenario thinking, John and his assembled group of ministry experts named thirteen trends that will likely affect the state of faith formation in the year 2020 and beyond. These are:
· “Declining participation in Christian Churches
· Changing patterns of religious identification and affiliation in the U.S.
· Becoming more spiritual, less religious
· Influence of individualism on Christian identity and community life
· Increasing social, cultural and religious diversity in the U.S.
· Growing influence of Hispanic/Latino religious faith
· Identifying a new stage of life: “emerging adulthood”
· The rise of a distinctive post-boomer faith and spirituality
· Changing structures and patterns of family life in the United States
· Rediscovering the impact of parents and families on faith practice
· Educating in new ways
· Increasing Numbers of Adults 65 and Older”
(Lifelong Faith: Faith Formation 2020, Volume 3.2, Summer 2009, pages 6-12)
John’s work continues. As always, his contributions can be expected to follow through on the latest findings, data and the direction and wisdom of the Church.
The selections cited above are from these publications and are a good representation of the scope of John’s contributions through time and his career in catechetical ministry. Readers are encouraged to read these publications in the order presented below in order to trace the development of John’s work initially with Youth and later more intensively with families and finally, intergenerational and lifelong catechesis.
Roberto, J. (2006). Becoming a Church of Lifelong Learners. New London, CT: Twenty-Third Publications.
Roberto, J. Lifelong Faith Journal, Volume 2.1, Spring 2008, Naugatuck, CT: LifelongFaith Associates.
Roberto, J. (2010). Faith Formation 2020: Designing the Future of Faith Formation. Naugatuck, CT: Lifelong Faith Associates
Brian Lemoi is the Executive Director of the Office of Evangelization and Lifelong Faith Formation for the Diocese of St. Petersburg. He has served in a variety of ministry roles in Catholic education and formation including nine years as a teacher at various grade levels in elementary and high schools, in settings as diverse as Spanish Harlem in New York City and rural parts of Pasco County Florida. Brian’s academic formation includes a BA in Religious Education and History (Iona College, New Rochelle, NY) and an MA in Catholic Education Leadership (University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN). Brian has worked as part of the writing team and standards setting team for the ACRE 2001 Edition and IFG-ACRE Edition, 2013 Edition respectively. Brian has been published in Catechist Magazine, Today’s Catholic Teacher, Momentum and Religion Teacher’s Journal and has contributed to books on Catechesis, assessment and measurement of student learning, and more recently on marriage ministry in the Catholic Church.