On Sept. 6, more than 60 people gathered at St. John’s School of Theology to kick off of the first ever Emmaus Institute weekend.
Emmaus Institute is a four-year intellectual and ministerial formation program for lay leadership ministry and potential Latino/Hispanic diaconal candidates from the Diocese of St. Cloud, in partnership with St. John’s School of Theology and Seminary. Its purpose is to create well-formed ministers who will serve the mission of the Gospel in their families, parishes, and wider communities throughout the diocese.
“In a Church that we hear is declining, where we hear young people aren’t coming, we had everyone from a teenager all the way up to people who are close to retirement who want to learn, who want to grow, who are on fire for their faith,” said Kristi Bivens, associate director of lay leadership formation for the diocese and one of the Emmaus Institute founders. “This is so important to the diocese because these are people who will help bring that fire back to their parishes, who will help build vibrant parishes in collaboration with the Body of Christ.”
This fall, there are three cohorts: a first-year English course, a first-year Spanish course and a third-year Spanish course that is a continuation of the Lay Ecclesial Ministry Formation Program that the Diocese of St. Cloud held for the past two years in collaboration with the Pastoral Leadership Institute of the University of St. Mary of the Lake (Mundelein Seminary) in the Archdiocese of Chicago.
The Emmaus Institute courses include theology classes, ministerial competencies, theological reflection, spiritual companioning groups, retreats and a parish integration project. The courses are offered in English and Spanish and are taught mainly by local instructors.
“Because I am a lay ecclesial minister myself, I know how important formation is for folks who are doing ministry in parishes,” said Eric Fought, one of the Emmaus Institute instructors. “I am really excited, not only to gather with colleagues, but also to look at how theology is played out in our ministries.”
Sandy Garcia, a member of St. Boniface Parish in Cold Spring, said she attended because she wants to grow in her faith.
“Anything I can learn and then give back, teach others in our community, that is what I want to do,” she said.
Classes take place monthly at St. John’s School of Theology and Seminary in Emmaus Hall.
“I was overwhelmed by the pure joy on the weekend,” Bivens said. “People were on fire to be there, to learn about their faith and to learn how to be better ministers. It almost brings me to tears to see the church so on fire. I’m so excited to see where this road leads.”
For more information, visit http://stcdio.org/emmaus-institute.