by Ann Yannetti
Norwalk – On a recent Saturday morning, Liturgical Ministers of St. Matthew Parish gathered to “Eat, Pray, and Be Formed.” This unique opportunity was developed by Fr. Frank Hoffmann, pastor, in response to Bishop Caggiano’s “The One.”
“When the Bishop started talking about how to get people back to church, one of the things he spoke about was small groups and how to pass on our faith,” Fr. Hoffmann explained. “One of the small groups in our church are those who participate in Ministry. Within that group, there are smaller groups: Readers, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, and Choir members,” said Fr. Hoffmann.
“This gathering isn’t nuts and bolts reminders about how to do your ministry,” he said. “Rather this is about the social aspect of sitting together and having a meal, praying together, and then having some sort of talk that’s going to help you be formed in the faith – all to grow closer to God and also give us a chance to get closer to one another.”
The day began with breakfast, followed by Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours, which is the daily prayer of the Church. Fr. Frank explained that engaging in this ancient prayer tradition fosters a sense of unity and solidarity with each other and the Church as a whole.
“We are praying with the Church, with millions of people all across the globe who are praying the same prayers, the same hymns, and the same psalms at the same time,” said Fr. Hoffmann.
During the third part of the morning, Fr. Hoffmann introduced the participants to a spiritual practice called the Examen by St. Ignatius. This practice involves reflecting on the events of the day and discerning where God was present and where we may have fallen short.
“Imagine God gazing at you with love. What do you want to tell God you’re thankful for, what fills your heart? Where have you pushed God out in your day or ignored him? What is trying to pull your attention away from God and how can you invite him back in?”
Fr. Hoffmann provided guidance on how to practice the Examen and encouraged participants to incorporate it into their daily routine as a powerful tool for spiritual growth.
“Even if you don’t do anything else, do the Examen. You’ll eventually come to see that when God presents us with difficult challenges, He does not simply throw us in the pool without support. God gives us the grace, strength, and tools necessary to overcome these challenges.”
“I like to call the Examen ‘looking for God in the rearview mirror.’ Eventually, you’ll see God in the windshield, and that’s the spiritual goal,” said Fr. Hoffmann.
Participants emerged from the morning with a renewed sense of purpose, a deeper connection to God, and a closer connection to those who are walking alongside them in their faith journey.
“I loved this mini session, and the reason is simple,” Lorraine DeRosa shared. “Although I pray and attend Mass, for quite some time I’ve felt starved spiritually. Spirituality to me is more than the prayers we recite by rote. Spirituality is having a conversation with the Lord as we would with a treasured friend. Being honest with a friend we trust, with little judgement in return,” she said, noting that she planned to use the Examen as a daily technique of prayerful reflection to detect God’s presence and discern his direction.
Paul and Susan Wolff expressed gratitude for Fr. Hoffmann’s guidance in introducing them to the Liturgy of the Hours and the Examen. “It was wonderful how Father took the time to go through each one in detail, and the breakfast gathering was a great way to begin the day!”
Fr. Hoffmann emphasized the importance of the Ministry groups and thanked them for their dedication. “Let me just say how much I appreciate each of you. You are valuable. We need people like you. You make such a difference to us.”
The next “Eat, Pray, Be Formed” session will meet in February. “My intention is that most of the talks will be more about our spiritual lives and our prayer lives, to continue growing closer in our relationship with God and each other,” according to Fr. Hoffmann.