By Tim Johnson
FORT WAYNE — Education for Ministry students experienced a milestone on May 7 receiving certificates for two years of diligent study about the Church and their faith. The celebration took place in the Archbishop Noll Catholic Center, and Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades offered his congratulations and Evening Vespers.
Since 1991, a grant from Our Sunday Visitor Institute in Huntington provides the two-year training for those who work in parish ministry, teach or just want to learn more about their Catholic faith. Classes are offered in Fort Wayne, South Bend, and the Spanish-speaking Catholic community is served through the sister program, Educacion para el Ministerio.
The Education for Ministry certificate is obtained by completing courses on Old Testament, New Testament, creed, ecclesiology, sacraments, liturgy, morality, prayer, catechesis and theology of ministry said Christina Emilian, who is the diocesan director of the program.
“The program has been revised to be more accessible for those we serve,” Emilian said. “The program is now modular based, allowing participants to take each unit when it fits in their schedule over several years.”
A certificate will be granted upon completion of one introductory course on Scripture and Tradition, and seven core classes.
“In the future we hope to offer an advanced certificate for those who have completed the Education for Ministry basic certificate and would like to continue their faith formation,” Emilian added.
During vespers Bishop Rhoades thanked the graduates for their two-year commitment “to the service of the Lord and His Church. I hope your participation in this program has been not only helpful in growing in your knowledge of the faith, but also in your own spiritual lives and journey of faith.”
After reflection upon the reading to the Hebrews about Christ’s eternal priesthood, Bishop Rhoades told the graduates, “In completing the Education for Ministry program, you go out to continue the work of Christ the priest, prophet and king, in the activity of the Church. In cooperation with our ordained priests, who share in a unique way in Christ’s priesthood, you as laity are following a path of Christian discipleship and service that is so needed for the life and growth of the Church in our various parish communities and apostolates.”
“The Lord has bestowed gifts and charisms on each of you to help build up His Body, the Church,” Bishop Rhoades continued. “I am deeply grateful for the various roles you fulfill in this regard. I am very grateful for your witness to Christ and for your generosity in service to the Church.”
One of those earning certificates from the program, Brett Rupright, a teacher at St. Joseph School-Hessen Cassel, Fort Wayne, said, “It was a wonderful experience that I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in Education for Ministry Program.”
He said the second year of the program “brought back many wonderful memories of my own Catholic education. I spent many Wednesday nights thinking to myself where have I heard this before. It was a combination of my wonderful teachers at St. Joseph School-Hessen Cassel and Bishop Luers High School. I’m very fortunate that this program was able to build upon the foundation that was started by my parents, George and Michelle Rupright, my grade school and high school educations.”
Many of the graduates told Today’s Catholic they took the course because they wanted to grow in their faith.
Barbara Cumberland, a teacher at St. John the Baptist School, Fort Wayne, said, “I felt it important to obtain knowledge and clarification of the Catholic religion so I could teach my students at St. John’s with confidence. Children are very perceptive. I know that I must give them precise, truthful and immediate answers. Any hesitation may cause them to doubt.”
She added, “The journey was a positive in many ways. I learned new information, made new friends and received personal insights that allow me to continue my journey toward the ultimate goal of eternal life in heaven.”
Dr. Denise Smith of St. Joseph Parish, Fort Wayne, said the instructional staff is “top notch.” Smith has been on the RCIA team at St. Joseph for the last six years and is also a catechist.
“I will continue to be involved with catechesis at my parish and use the knowledge to continue my own growth in my faith,” she said, “and, of course, to evangelize as Pope Francis and his predecessors have asked us to.”
Bishop Rhoades spoke of this special time of grace in the life of the Church with Pope Francis’ example and call to be a Church of missionary disciples that communicates the joy of the Gospel.
“He is constantly calling us to be a Church that is not self-centered or self-referential,” Bishop Rhoades said. “He is calling us to go out, to go forth, especially to the edges of peripheries, to the poor, the sick, the suffering, the forgotten. This missionary impulse is so important and so needed. Each in our own way, according to our own gifts and responsibilities, has a part to play in this missionary task.”
Bishop Rhoades encouraged the graduates to daily growth in the love of God and neighbor in their life and ministry.
“We all need to cultivate our life of faith,” the bishop said. “This requires a faithful life of prayer and ever-deepening communion with the person of Jesus. This is foundational for all ministry and for true discipleship. Without our personal encounter with Jesus, our ministry will lack the vital soul and source needed to bear lasting fruit.”
Martha Anderson, a great-grandmother from St. Therese Parish in Fort Wayne, told Today’s Catholic that a friend who had participated in Education for Ministry recommended it. A priest also encouraged Anderson to consider more Bible study.
“It was very informative and very helpful to me,” she said. “Now I am reading the Bible daily, praying before I read the Bible and trying to say my morning prayers every day.”
John Trok, a dentist and catechist at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Fort Wayne, will carry what he learned to his fifth- and sixth-grade classes at St. Elizabeth, “but also with my family and friends, especially the ones that have fallen away from the Church.”
Trok has decided to also get involved with prison ministry. “I’ve always had an inkling for getting involved with this ministry, because one of my patients has been doing a Bible study at the Allen County Jail for quite some time,” he noted.
He took the classes because “I needed another spiritual booster shot. And, I just knew it was the right thing to do for my journey within the Catholic faith.”
Trok has a sister who teaches first grade at Holy Family School in South Bend and is going through the Education for Ministry program that is offered in South Bend.
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