By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T

It’s been a long process; three years to be exact.

On Saturday, May 8, 52 men and women from 37 parishes will gather for an 11 a.m. Mass celebrated by Cardinal Rigali to mark their graduation from the archdiocesan Church Ministry Institute (CMI), a program they entered into in the fall of 2007.

Over these past three years they have participated in 14 six-week courses, had mentoring sessions, both day and overnight retreats, ministry visits, book-sharing and undertaken a project in ministry of their choosing.

For the most part, they are not paid staff, just “people who are disciples following their mission,” said Maryanne Harrington, director of the archdiocesan Office for the Formation of the Laity.

The goal of the institute, Harrington explained, can be summed up by the directive from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians 4:1. “Live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”

“Through baptism we are all called to the mission of the Church,” she said, adding that the program “builds up their confidence and knowledge so that they can serve better.”

At this time there are 170 students, typically people already involved in some area of parish life, perhaps in evangelization programs or liturgy. The program will prepare them to better serve the parish.

Generally speaking, the participants meet in small groups, 20 or less, at various sites scattered around the Archdiocese chosen for the convenience of the participants; for example Lansdale Catholic, Archbishop Ryan or Bishop Shanahan High Schools; or parishes such as St. Andrew in Newtown, St. Barnabas in Southwest Philadelphia or St. Matthias in Bala Cynwyd. Some participants may stay at the same site for all three years, others meet at different sites. Sites may be added or dropped depending on the local need, indicated by the response at a given location.

Each year is spanided into two semesters (the first beginning the second week in September) with classes one night a week at a cost of $250 per semester.

During the first year five courses are offered – Old Testament; New Testament; Christian Prayer; Church History, and Ministry Skills I, with each course consisting of six sessions.

Year two has the same format with the five courses: Foundations of Faith; Liturgy; Christian Spirituality; Lay Mission and Ministry; and Ministry Skills II. Four courses are offered during the third year and they include Sacraments; Christian Morality; Spirituality and Ministry; and Ministry Skills III.

This final year also includes the inspanidual project in ministry. At the end of each six-week course, the groups break down to even smaller units and, meeting with a mentor, discuss what they have learned.

Now that this year’s group is receiving certificates and graduating, it doesn’t mean they won’t be back at the Cathedral in the future. Immaculate Heart Sister Mary Ellen Diehl, who has been a teacher and mentor in the program for 10 years and the administrator for the past two, notes the number of former students who are now RCIA team members.

Based on that, “I think the program is very effective,” she said.

“I loved the program. I wish more people would go out for it,” said Theresa Grasso of St. Ann Parish in Phoenixville. “We had really good teachers and the three years went so fast we were sorry to see it end.”

Her project in ministry is a dual project. She has organized a high school youth group at St. Ann’s, which has about 25 teens currently. She’s also is in the process of organizing a Ladies Auxiliary for the local Knights of Columbus Council.

Dan Conden, a member of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Richboro, first heard about CMI through another parishioner who had been through it.

“She told me I would be a good candidate for it; she was evangelizing me,” he said. “Now having been through it, it was awesome, a great experience, and I would recommend it highly to anybody,” he said.

For his project in ministry he prepared a Power Point presentation to promote the Legion of Mary, which he presented before his CMI peers. He also did an after-Mass talk on the Legion of Mary at Nativity of Our Lord Church in Warminster.

For more information call 215-587-0551 or Google Church Ministry Institute.

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.

Ministry to African-American Catholics a focus of CMI

The Church Ministry institute trains lay leaders for the whole community. Ministry to African American-Catholics (MAAC) has a specific and self-explanatory focus.

“It leads to a certificate in pastoral ministry to African-Americans,” explained Marion Corbin, MAAC administrator and also a product of the program.

MAAC, which has an upcoming graduation ceremony at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, is a 24-credit undergraduate level program leading to a pastoral certificate.

“It’s made possible through the generosity of the Martin de Porres Foundation,” Corbin said. “It provides an academic setting to form leadership for the African-American parishes in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The whole purpose is to help people become active in their parishes. So far 49 students have graduated from it, and several have gone on to a master’s program.”

“This year we have two graduates, Paula Manchester of Corpus Christi Parish (Upper Gwynedd) who is going to the master’s program, and Vunda Moutchia of St. Francis de Sales Parish.”

Corbin is a retired social worker who lives in Central Bucks County but remains a parishioner at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Germantown. After her retirement she wanted to do something meaningful and hit upon the MAAC program. After she completed it, she was hired as the administrator.

“It was a fantastic program. I learned so much about religion and religious education,” she said. “My own spirituality has grown so much from it.”

– Lou Baldwin