Is the Institute for Parish Leadership for you?

In our first five years of the Institute for Parish Leadership Development, over 600 leaders from parishes all over the diocese have received what we believe to be a solid foundation in theology and scripture.

With this foundation in church teachings, they have been able to use their talents in better service to their local parishes.

Perhaps the institute would be just the right program for you. Talk it over with your parish priest or parish life facilitator after reading this article.

The intended audience for the institute are those who hold positions of leadership at their parish. For example, members of a parish council, finance council, catechists, youth ministers, bookkeepers, principals, and members of worship committees (to name a few) would all benefit from the curriculum.

In two years, the institute can provide its participants survey courses i.e., general overview of a topic, highlights of major aspects, additional readings, along with questions and discussions which parallel the courses studied by their parish priests and facilitators.

Regular adult education courses are provided at the parish level and through a variety of programs offered by various departments of the diocese. The institute is geared toward those in leadership positions.

The leader who participates in the two-year program will come away with a deeper understanding of being church. They will have been introduced to the fundamentals of our Catholic faith. They will perhaps have a deeper sense of the church as communities of believers. They will meet leaders from other parishes.

From their weekly sessions they will experience a bonding with their fellow students and come away with an enthusiasm for their faith.

With a deeper understanding of their faith, the participants will be well prepared to be active leaders in their parishes, in the baptismal calling to lead others to Jesus Christ.

Thus was envisioned the Institute for Parish Leadership Development, which became a reality when Course One was offered throughout the diocese from May 1998 through January 1999. There are ten classroom sites in all deaneries of the Diocese. Participants are assigned to the site nearest their homes.

For 2003 through 2004, classes begin the week of Sept. 15 and conclude the week of Feb. 23, 2004.

Each year there are twenty classes. The institute schedule is coordinated with the Disciples in Mission program offered in most parishes in the diocese to allow participants to attend both.

Classes begin on a set day of the week Mondays through Thursdays at each classroom site at 7 p.m. and end at 9:15 p.m. No weekend classes are held.

At each class a presenter gives a teaching on the curriculum topic following the diocesan-wide calendar.

The method of learning is based on an adult model which is not all lecture, but is interactive. Questions may be asked. Group discussions are built into each unit. Handouts are given to be carried home for further study.

This format not only provides a learning experience, but results in the building up of a community of believers who love the church and go out prepared to witness Christ to others as parish leaders.

A study of the church is called ecclesiology. Who better can guide us through a study of the church than a retired bishop? Bishop David B. Thompson has prepared four classes on the topic.

Following our study of ecclesiology, we move on to study the church after the Second Vatican Council.

The description of the first two topics to be covered in Tract Two, the curriculum for 2003 through 2004, follows Ecclesiology (Classes 1 to 4).

With the Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the conciliar and postconciliar documents of Vatican II, and the Code of Canon Law as four strong pillars undergirding the study of the Catholic Church, the institute’s four classes of eight hours of ecclesiology will examine and discuss how Cardinal Avery Dulles, S.J., views the historical and living church in his Models of the Church, and how the Church of Charleston saw the local church in the Synod of Charleston 1990 to 1995.

Because this course is about “our church” in South Carolina, ample time will be provided for discussion of what model of church is best for the Diocese of Charleston.

Vatican II (Classes 5 to 8)

In this course we will look at the events leading up to the Second Vatican Council, historically and culturally, and review new theologies which were emerging.

We will consider the major shifts in theology and insights at the Council.

We will look at the most significant documents of Vatican II including:

1) The Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium,    4 December 1963
2) The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 21 November 1964
3) Decree of Ecumenism Unitatis Reintegratio, 21 November 1964
4) Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People Apostolicam Actuositatem,    18 November 1965
5) Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium Et Spes, 7 December 1965
6) Declaration on Religious Liberty Dignitatis Humanae, 7 December 1965
Finally, we look at where we are now.

What aspects of the reform have been seeds of new life in our parishes and communities? Do the theologians and liturgists in this postconciliar age point in the same direction? What is the renewal that awaits us?