Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 13, 2002
Investing in formation yields vibrant parish
Formation pupils come away with tools for parish ministry
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
A few years ago, Edson's Sacred Heart parish had only a handful of people involved in ministries, with the bulk of the work load falling on the back of the parish pastor.
Today most active parishioners play a role in the life of the parish and that's all thanks to the Formation for Pastoral Services Program, a two-year program that provides lay people with the necessary pastoral skills to serve effectively in a parish.
Sacred Heart sponsors three of its lay people at a time in the program and now has nine people who have taken the program and are active in various ministries. Three more are expected to graduate in June out of a total graduating class of 17.
The program has produced about 130 graduates since it began in 1994. Twenty-one more are expected to graduate in June 2003.
"This program has made our parish blossom," said parish administrator Aline Andre, who graduated from the program last year.
The parish has nearly 400 active families out of a total of 654. And nearly 80 parishioners are involved in ministries ranging from sacramental preparation and pastoral care to arts & environment and social justice.
Andre and three other Sacred Heart parishioners were among 50 alumnae of the program that met at Grey Nuns Regional Centre May 4 to reflect on their experiences of ministry.
In an interview, the group agreed the program has made a difference in parish life.
And at the root of the success is the parish requirement that each participant make a two or three year commitment to a ministry.
That means every time a Sacred Heart parishioner graduates, he or she goes straight into a ministry, involving many others in the process. One reported to have a dozen parishioners involved in her ministry.
"This training has provided us with the skills and the confidence we need to participate in the parish and in the community," said Virginia Coens, who graduated in 1999. She committed herself to do pastoral care of the sick in hospitals and medical centres.
Danielle MacDonald, a full-time wife and mother of three, is involved in marriage and family life at Sacred Heart and, among other things, helps pastor Patrick Baska with weddings. She is also involved in the parish pastoral council.
"If I had not taken the program, I doubt I would be involved," she said. "The program gives you the skills required to do an efficient job."
Gloria Musson, a retired schoolteacher, graduated from the program in 2000 and is involved in several ministries, including pastoral care and the Rite Christian Initiation of Adults. She has 12 people in her team and said the program not only gave her new skills but also "increased my thirst for knowledge and my love for Christ."
MacDonald and Andre credited former pastor Roger Keeler with having the vision to start sponsoring people in the FPS. "Because we are a rural parish he thought there was a good chance we would lose our permanent priest some day," MacDonald said.
"He recognized that to keep this parish alive he had to empower the lay people."
The FPS operates out of Newman Theological College and offers courses on scripture, theology, liturgy and pastoral skills.
"But it's not just pure theology; we (also) give them the principles and the tools for ministry," said Margaret O'Connell, a member of the FPS board.