After a year-and-a-half of planning, a two-year certification program for Hispanic lay leaders was launched in Melrose Sept. 8, welcoming 55 participants from the Diocese of St. Cloud as well as 13 participants from the neighboring dioceses of New Ulm, Winona, Crookston and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
“The Lay Ecclesial Ministry Formation Program that the Diocese of St. Cloud has begun with the support of Bishop Donald Kettler responds to the diocesan needs of being servants of the Lord,” said Mayuli Bales, director of the diocesan Office of Multicultural Ministries. “[It] is a response to finding a way to meet Jesus Christ alive, a response to recognize that the path of conversion never ends.
“Being disciples, living in communion and being missionaries requires training,” she said. “That is why the program will provide our diocese with committed servants to live in communion with God and with our bishops, priests and communities of faith.”
Bales and Deacon Ernie Kociemba, assistant director of the diocesan Office of the Diaconate, worked to bring the program to the St. Cloud Diocese.
After much research, they developed a plan to collaborate with the Institute of Pastoral Leadership at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in the Archdiocese of Chicago.
The Institute initiated a similar program in the Diocese of Des Moines, Iowa. Nelly Lorenzo, director of the Institute, will travel to the diocese each month to teach the course.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for collaboration, to help other dioceses experience ‘pastoral de conjunto,’ a way that we can help each other, knowing that the Hispanic community has so many needs and knowing that it keeps growing and growing,” Lorenzo said.
The intensive program will be held one weekend a month from Friday evening through Sunday evening.
“The purpose of the program is to provide leadership formation for lay people,” Lorenzo said. “It requires commitment because it is very intensive, very systematic, very practical and very hands-on. There is a specific methodology that we use: we ‘see’ the situation, we ‘judge’ or discern the experience, then we ‘act.’ These are the three steps we use throughout the workshop.”
Lorenzo said the program meets a need in the church today.
“We are lacking more priests and if we have lay leaders who are formed, they can help the pastors by doing other jobs in the parishes that the priests are doing now. If we have well formed leaders, they can take care of many areas that will aid the priest,” she said.
Over the two year course, students will study six areas of focus:
- Human abilities
- Holy Scripture
- Christian spirituality
- Mission and ministry of the church
- Pastoral theology
Participants are required to pay $1,000 each year for the course and are encouraged to find sponsors from their parishes and dioceses to help cover the expenses.
One of the program’s first students is Ana Salgado, a 21-year-old young adult who lives in Sauk Centre and attends the Spanish Mass at St. Mary Church in Melrose.
What attracted her to the program was the “ability of learning other ways to help evangelize and the ability to better serve the parochial ministries.
“I believe that we are going through hard times as a diocese in terms of numbers of religiously ordained people. I believe it is time for us lay people to become more involved and more educated in order to aid our priests in bringing the Gospel to Hispanic communities, in their own language,” she said.
Salgado, who works as a guest services manager at Coborn’s in Sauk Centre, hopes to gain more technical and practical knowledge in leadership. She also hopes to inspire others in her community to get more involved in parish ministries.
“I would like to give the community my learned skills in order to help grow and perhaps create ministries specializing in youth outreach,” she said.
Like her classmates, Salgado is grateful to Bishop Kettler for the educational opportunity and believes that the program will “make us a stronger, more solid church that works for the well-being of all by fulfilling the mandates of our Lord Jesus Christ.”