Forming Catholic Witnesses:
By Sister Rachel Gosda, SCTJM
Director of the Veritatis Splendor Institute
What is the Veritatis Splendor Institute? Or as it is commonly called, the VSI? Some may think of it as simply classes to learn our Catholic faith more thoroughly; others may think of it as a requirement for ministry in our diocese. After three years in the VSI, Mary Ann Koenig, soon-to-be- graduate of the Masters’ program, describes the VSI beautifully for what it truly is: an “integrated program for the formation of Catholic witnesses that focuses not on just acquiring intellectual knowledge, but personal, and spiritual development.”
Over the course of the next few weeks, we desire to share some of the stories of how the VSI has equipped, inspired, and strengthened many of the faithful from all corners of our diocese, in the hope that you, too, would receive the encouragement you need to embrace this beautiful gift! This month, we will hear from Tyler and Alicia Weaver, parishioners of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Rapid City.
Tyler and Alicia Weaver
With three little ones in their arms or on the move, Tyler and Alicia Weaver might not be a couple that you would expect to find dedicating one Saturday a month to their formation in the faith. However, it is in large part for the sake of their little ones that they have made the commitment to walk the road of the Veritatis Splendor Institute this past year.
“We greatly desire to teach our children the faith, to help them encounter Jesus, and to help them get into heaven,” Alicia said. “With this as a top goal, we know our proper formation first is key. We are learning to give God our time first and that he will provide time for the rest.”
Their pastor, Fr. Brian Christensen, “has played a huge role in [their] lives and formation,” celebrating their Wedding Mass and witnessing this Sacrament; baptizing all three of their children, Alice (3); Hannah (2) and John Peter (4 months), and teaching Alicia’s RCIA class when she was preparing for full communion with the Catholic Church. It was his witness and invitation, along with another Cathedral Parishioner and VSI Graduate, Laura Hawk, that inspired the Weavers to join VSI this year.
Alicia writes, “We were inspired by these two individuals’ understanding and joy they experienced from VSI [. . .] We could see they had something special that Tyler and I were lacking in our faith journey, and we wanted to experience it! [. . .] At first, it seemed like it might be challenging to change work schedules and find babysitters. However, we look forward to VSI so much each month, that the excitement of VSI outweighs any challenge that presents itself.”
To other young couples considering VSI, but contemplating the challenges of having children at home, Alicia says, “We thought we were taking our faith seriously before starting VSI, but realized quickly how much there was to learn. By taking VSI we realized we were missing portions of our catechetical formation. We would say, very lovingly, when do you want to start taking your faith seriously?”
The biggest fruit that they share that they have received this year, as a fruit of their VSI formation, as Alicia says, “is the deepening of our relationship with Jesus. We are having our minds conformed to His Word by learning about Jesus Christ Himself in a very personal way.”
On a personal note, Tyler adds, “One of my favorite fruits received is the increased love and reverence I have for our blessed mother Mary. Learning about her role in Jesus’s life and in the church has brought me so much happiness!”
When asked if they had anything else that they would particularly desire to share, Tyler said, “We would like to share how loved and supported we have felt being a family with young children during this experience. One fond memory we have is when Alicia went into labor at the beginning of a VSI day. Father Dillon gave us a blessing before we left and we received audio of our class praying the Rosary for us while we were in the hospital. We are so blessed to be a part of this community and experience what it means to have a faith family.
“Veritatis Splendor Institute is a retreat for the soul once a month. Every night after VSI we don’t want to make plans because we want to soak in the presence of God and the beautiful teachings we received.”
Learn more about the Veritatis Splendor Institute
The Basic Certification course presents an in-depth study of the four pillars of our Faith and an introduction to catechetical methodology. Delving into the fundamental mysteries of the Catholic Faith, liturgical worship and sacraments, principles and values of moral theology, the traditions of prayer and spirituality and the saints, this course will lead to the primary aim and mission of the Church: to draw all people to an intimate encounter with the living God. It will also explore concrete useful methods for evangelization and catechesis, in our families and in our communities, while offering enrichment courses on a variety of practical topics for everyday life and growth in Christ. Additionally, regular prayer, the Holy Mass, a retreat, and formation groups provide a setting and opportunity to grow in that personal relationship with Jesus Christ.