Fifteen leaders were certified in parish social ministry during a ceremony with Bishop Donald Kettler at St. Ann Parish in Wadena June 25.
The Parish Social Ministry Certification program, one of only two known in the nation to offer this level of recognition to leaders in this ministry, is a collaboration between Bishop Kettler and the Social Concerns Office of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Cloud.
Certified leaders underwent the “Living Our Faith in the World” training series offered by Catholic Charities as part of the Rural Life Leadership Development Initiative. The initiative strives to identify parish leaders and offer them formation and support for building or leading a parish social ministry team in their parishes and communities, particularly in rural areas.
Candidates who participated in this year’s training will soon convene a community input session, facilitated by Catholic Charities social concerns staff, inviting community members to identify the needs they see in their area; this will be followed by strategic planning sessions to determine initiatives to help address those needs, said Kateri Mancini, director of social concerns.
Leaders who underwent the training during previous years, prior to the diocese offering certification, have already gone through the process of identifying key issues. Based on that process, they are currently helping address issues such as food insecurity, homelessness, cross-cultural relationships and transportation, among others.
“Your challenge is twofold,” Bishop Kettler told the leaders during the certification ceremony. “If you don’t have [a social ministry team], work hard to start one. Our parishes need the voice of a social concerns committee. We need today to be able to speak up for social concerns — care for everyone, especially as Pope Francis says, those on peripheries.
“And if you already have a social concerns committee, use your expertise to grow it. If you’re supporting what’s already there, support it with strength,” he told them.
In order to be certified, parish leaders must complete an application process that includes their participation in formation as well as a reflection on their personal skills, challenges and goals for growing social concerns activities within the parish. They must also provide a letter of reference from their pastor.
“We are all called to be missionary disciples,” Bishop Kettler reminded the group. “You have all gone through what you have done because you believe that. By studying and learning about social justice — reaching out to everybody — God called you, specifically you, to do this. We are most grateful for you.”
This year’s certified parish social ministry leaders include (in photo above, left to right, back row): Barb Piecek (St. Ann in Wadena), Dawn Swanz (Holy Cross in Butler), Beatrice Britz (St. Mary’s Parish in Little Falls), Greg Spofford (Sacred Heart in Sauk Rapids), JC Duncan (St. Ann in Wadena), Mary Peeters (Holy Cross in Butler) and Jeffery Gerst (St. James in Maine)
Front row, left to right: Gert Lambert (Holy Cross in Onamia), Cyrilla Kuuipohanakailianu Bauer (Sacred Heart in Wahkon), Kateri Mancini (Christ Church Newman Center in St. Cloud), Faye Hendrickx (Holy Cross in Butler), Mary Schmit (St. Ann in Wadena), Lorie Baron (St. Ann in Wadena) and Bishop Kettler.
Not pictured: Peggy Martin (Our Lady of Lourdes in Little Falls) and Jennifer Honek (Holy Cross in Onamia).