Claire Kenney
Freelance Writer
September 12, 2023 // Diocese

St. Paul School of Leaders Prepares Parishioners to Evangelize 

Claire Kenney
Freelance Writer

Currently in its piloting stage at St. Vincent de Paul Church in Fort Wayne, the St. Paul School of Leaders Program is an avenue for adults to learn more about their faith in order to more fully serve their parishes. The program was inspired by Bishop Rhoades’ observation of the need for parishes to form and inform their communities in order to continue to flourish.

The program was inspired by St. Paul’s initial encounter with Christ and how events unfolded thereafter.

“The name came about because I recalled the conversion of St. Paul on the road to Damascus,” explained Carl Loesch, Secretary for Pastoral Ministries and Catechesis in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, who was appointed by Bishop Rhoades to spearhead the program along with others. “After St. Paul’s encounter with the Lord, he did not immediately begin evangelizing others. First, he went into a several-year period of formation so that he would be equipped to evangelize.”

Others managing the program include Jonathan Kaltenbach, Brian MacMichael, Rob Gregory, and Justin Aquila.

The St. Paul School of Leaders Program at St. Vincent, which is already at full capacity, runs 11 weeks. The program’s team integrated various avenues for spiritual growth into the program’s agenda. These opportunities include catechetical instruction and praying the Liturgy of the Hours. 

“Since we are in the parish year of the Eucharist, we thought it was appropriate to focus our first slate of classes on deepening our understanding of the Mass,” Loesch said. 

Dennis Wiegmann, Principal of Queen of Angels Catholic School in Fort Wayne, is one of the program’s participants. 

“I chose to participate because it was another opportunity to grow in faith,” Wiegmann said. “I am always looking at ways to gain more knowledge while on my journey of faith.”

Shannon Linder, another participant, is looking forward to learning more about the Mass during the program.

“I’m looking forward to going deeper with the unveiling of the Mass – when heaven and earth unite in the liturgy as revealed by sacred Scripture,” she said.

As a local teacher, Linder looks forward to sharing the information she’s learned with her students and family. 

“I want to take my new learning from the course and share it with my family as well as my seventh- and eighth-grade students at St. Vincent’s,” she said.

Like Linder, Sarah Nielson, also looks forward to learning about the Mass.

“As soon as I was invited to be a participant and heard that the topic for the 11-week study was the Mass, I felt inspired to say yes,” she said. “Learning about the Mass years ago through my own study with books such as ‘The Lamb’s Supper’ and ‘What Happens at Mass’ was something that enlivened my worship and created a desire deep within my heart to receive Jesus in the Eucharist not just on Sunday but every single day.”

What Nielson most looks forward to, which is also facilitated by the graces of attending Mass, is deepening her relationship with God.

“Now I’m excited to revisit my study of the Mass and to go deeper, receiving wisdom from the incredible team of teachers we’ll have,” she explained. “What I’m most looking forward to is growing in and deepening the intimacy I have now with the Lord throughout these 11 weeks.”

The diocese hopes to offer other programs focused on evangelization in the future.

“After offering this pilot program this fall, we hope to offer similar catechetical formation in other areas of the diocese,” Loesch said.

For now, this single program will seek to serve surrounding parishes through participants’ enhanced knowledge of the Faith. 

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