Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 20, 2005
Grads grateful for pastoral service program
Parish secretary says FPS increased her compassion, deepened her faith
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Rose Connell, the secretary at St. Matthew's Parish, is glad her parish sponsored her in the Formation for Pastoral Service program at Newman Theological College for the past two years.
"I look back over the past two years with much appreciation and gratitude," she says. "For me it has been a profound faith journey. This program has been an opportunity to learn a great deal about the Catholic faith and has left me with a thirst to learn more."
The two-year certificate program in lay ministry has produced close to 170 graduates since it began in 1996.
Graduates and some current students oversee baptismal and marriage preparation, RCIA, pastoral care and other programs in their parishes.
Connell is one of 16 laywomen and men who graduated from FPS June 12. At the ceremony attended by more than 200 people, the graduates received certificates from Archbishop Thomas Collins and Newman President Father Jack Gallagher.
Aiming to provide opportunities for pastoral enhancement founded on sound theology, the Edmonton Archdiocese developed this program for lay people. Courses on Scripture, spirituality, liturgy and pastoral skills are provided.
"Many of you have made great sacrifices in order to be formed in your faith and to be called in new ways to live out your baptismal commitment through service to Jesus Christ, through ministry to God's people," guest speaker and FPS instructor Father Leo Hofmann told the graduates.
"Hopefully as a result of FPS when you see people in need you will always have compassion for them because they are helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Even if there is fear of your ideas and hopes by others around you and you find yourself not being able to do what you had hoped to do, begin in some small ways. Try to be a model of Christian hospitality, welcome the stranger."
Connell had become stagnant and complacent in her faith but said the program opened her eyes. "It has enriched my faith life and has helped me with my job (as parish secretary)," she said following the graduation ceremonies. "As you know, the secretary is always the first in line. Now I am more compassionate toward people and better able to deal with their concerns."
Margaret O'Connell, the FPS acting director while Kim Wanner is on sick leave, said the program gives students a solid foundation in their faith as well as helping them grow personally. "You can't come to this program and leave unchanged; it's an impossibility."
The program prepares lay people for volunteer ministry in parishes over two years on weekends. Parishes have come to rely on the program for the formation of their lay leaders over the years. Since the program was launched almost a decade ago, St. Joseph's Basilica, for example, has had 18 graduates; Sherwood Park has had 16, Fort Saskatchewan 11 and Edson 13.
The program, however, has run its course and will be closed next year in June, O'Connell said.
Clay and Anne Givens, who help with wedding rehearsals, pastoral care and stewardship ministry at St. Joseph's Basilica, were surprised when the parish asked them to participate in the program. Now they are glad it did.
No longer politically correct
"I find the experience has a broad application in my life from how I conduct myself in the business world, the parish community and the family," said Clay, an accountant. "I find myself more open about my faith, more open to share aspects of the program. The bashful, politically correct Catholic is gone."
Anne said there were times when she thought the program must have been tailor-made for her.
"Just when I needed it, the classes and the FPS team members would provide answers to my questions," she said. "Overall it gave me some of the fundamental understanding of the theological and liturgical principles that were needed for developing and supporting the parish care ministry."
Gene and Sylvia Bodnar, both lay ministers at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Sherwood Park, said the program was "extremely beneficial" to their spiritual and emotional growth. They have also gained a more empathetic approach to the care and consoling of the dying.
"We have been reawakened to the fact that loss and death, sorrow and grief are the flip side to life, joy and growth."
Ineke MacDougall, a Eucharistic minister and pastoral care team member at Edmonton's Good Shepherd Parish, said the program was a gift. "It has been a wonderful journey for me," she said. "I learned the many ways we can look at Scripture and apply these honest, passionate and powerful writings to society and to our own personal lives."
MacDougall, a registered nurse, said the FPS should be a prerequisite for all working in Church ministry as it provides tools and direction for a personal faith journey, sound knowledge of the faith as well as the tools to share this knowledge with God's people.
As a recent convert to the faith, Sandy Fisher, a school bus driver in Edson and head of her parish's stewardship committee, is happy her pastor recommended her for the FPS program two years ago.
"I was truly blessed to be part of this journey," she said. "I found a path, a spiritual peace; I have a connection with God again and I'm not afraid to pray knowing that God can hear me."
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