By FATHER JOSEPH A. WAHL, CO
As you read this, something of significance is occurring throughout the diocese. Some 200 who participated in Course One of the Institute for Parish Leadership Development are being awarded their diocesan Certificates of Recognition.
Last May 300 laity, religious and priests embarked upon a 20-week journey of study and community building based on foundational issues of faith. Their goal was to answer their call to be disciples of Christ and to develop their leadership. In mid-January some 200 managed to complete the required course. Some found time constraints, jobs and ministries did not allow them to finish Course One.
Since it was a dream of the Synod and Bishop David Thompson’s pastoral letters that the Institute provide an adult interactive method of learning, I thought readers might appreciate information on what these 200 accomplished.
The 20 weeks of study and dialogue, research and working together on projects to benefit their parishes back home began with two sessions entitled “The Call to Leadership,” which reminded all that baptism is a personal and communal call to be disciples of Christ. They were reminded they are called to be leaders in the Church, to assume responsibility for the Body of Christ. They learned the various qualities and styles of leadership and were challenged to follow a collaborative model of leadership. They became familiar with the rich heritage and varied styles of prayer in a few classes on “Prayer and Worship.” During these, they were enriched by a powerful teaching on the centrality of “Eucharist” which gave all the participants a deeper sense of mission, the call to live as a Eucharistic people focusing on how Sunday Eucharist builds up parish communities. Next the all important issue of “Evangelization and Reconciliation” heightened the awareness of all of the universal call to discipleship and mission i.e., we should all be evangelists. This topic focused also on the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults through which many receive the gift of faith in the Easter sacraments. All became more aware of the catechetical needs of all age groups in the course on “Christian Formation.” Stress was placed on the fact all are catechists as we live our faith journeys. Methods of teaching children and adults were explored and church documents on catechesis were studied. A better sense of “Stewardship” was developed as its theology and practical approaches to carry home to parishes were explored. To help all be challenged to carry the gospel to the world we live in, three classes were devoted to the “Social Teachings of the Church” i.e., fundamental call to bring the Gospel to the poor and oppressed. The biblical basis for justice was studied as were the social encyclicals of popes from Leo XIII to John Paul II as well as the guidance of the U.S. Bishops Conference. This course showed how to move beyond direct services like feeding the hungry to empowerment and systematic change. Recommendations on what each parish can do to promote social justice were given. The various levels of “Building Community” were studied as were some needed skills to help build our parishes into solid communities where the faith is nourished and care for one another is expressed. Indeed, the format of the Institute, the working together on projects did as one participant evaluated it, “The Institute not only taught us, but showed us how to build community.” A final course “The Leader as Manager” taught such practical points as planning, effective communication, time management and conflict resolution.”
After 20 weeks of commuting, praying together, studying, discussing and working on projects to benefit the parish back home those who completed Course One were most positive in their evaluation.
So if you happen to be at a Sunday Eucharist in which the pastor or pastoral administrator calls forward those of your parish who have earned their Certificate of Recognition from the diocese, rejoice with them. In September, Course Two is scheduled to begin. Keep watching The New Catholic Miscellany for how you might participate.
Father Joseph A. Wahl, CO, is director of the diocesan Institute for Parish Leadership Development.