Congar Institute for Ministry Development April, 2013 San Antonio, TX     

Dear Brothers and Sisters:


During this Easter Season we want to wish you the grace of joy because Christ is risen and he is among us. We want to rejoice with you for our new Pope Francis who, from the beginning, is showing us how we can share Jesus’ Good News with our brothers and sisters through acts of love with humility and simplicity; he invites us to reach out to all those in need.

At the Congar Institute we rejoice because we are blessed with opportunities to serve our Church community through lay faith formation and leadership development to dioceses and through our active participation in leading Church organizations.

We thank you for your interest in who we are and how we serve the Church today.
Your brother in Christ,
Alejandro Siller-González
Assistant Director for Hispanic Programs

Visit to the Diocese of Sacramento


Fr. Wayne Cavalier, O.P. and I traveled to the Diocese of Sacramento from March 18 to 22 for an onsite visit with the purpose of gathering information related to their needs for lay leadership formation. We first had an interview with Bishop Jaime Soto who reaffirmed his intention to develop a comprehensive strategic plan of formation for lay ministers. He thanked us for our help in facilitating the Inventory assessment of formation programs, and for our upcoming final proposal for the comprehensive strategic formation plan for lay ministry.

We interviewed different stake holder groups of ordained and lay ministers, English and Spanish speakers, youth and adults. The interviews were made face to face or through video conferencing, some in Sacramento and others in the rural northern part of the diocese. The interviews in Sacramento included: the Presbyteral Council, Department of Evangelization and Catechesis, Diocesan Pastoral Council, participants of the Instituto Hispano, Pastoral Formation Advisory Council, English and Spanish-speaking Directors and Coordinators of Religious Education, Youth and Young adult English speaking leadership, Diocesan Media Team, Catholic Professionals and Business people, the Diocesan Black Council, Asian Groups and the Filipino Apostolate. We traveled to the northern part of the Diocese which is mostly a rural area to interview Pastors and Lay Ministers in Spanish and in English.

We were pleasantly surprised to find an enthusiastic lay diocesan community wanting to participate in our interview sessions. They shared with us their “hunger” and that of their faith communities to prepare in faith formation to serve the Church with enthusiasm in the variety of ministries. The leadership team, lay and ordained, led by the Bishop, showed us their disposition to serve in the midst of limited financial resources, as well as limited formed human resources, large distances, and great diversity. The local hospitality, planning and organization for our visit, allowed us to do our work effectively and successfully. After further research on a variety of fronts, we expect to have a final report for the diocesan leadership on July 1. Our visit to the diocese of Sacramento once again confirmed for us the need for the mission of the Congar Institute.

News from the Board of Directors


The Congar Institute Board elected fr. Jorge Presmanes, OP as its new President following Paul Philibert's completion of two terms as first President of the Board. fr. Jorge is Director of the Institute for Hispanic/Latino/a Theology and Ministry and Associate Professor of Theology at Barry University in Miami FL. Before earning his doctorate and going to teach at Barry, fr. Jorge was pastor of a large Hispanic parish in Miami, FL for 9 years. fr. Jorge has served as a Resource Person, most recently for both lay formation programs (English and Spanish) in the Diocese of Salt Lake City. Upon being elected, fr. Jorge commented, "I am pleased to serve the Congar Institute in this capacity because I am very proud of the work we are doing and especially our support of the Hispanic community."

The Board also welcomed its newest member, fr. Jeffery Ott, OP to his first meeting. fr. Jeffery serves as the Promoter for Social Justice of the Southern Province Dominicans and is the Pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, a large African American parish in the Sweet Auburn Historic District of Atlanta, GA. In other business the Board continued to work toward long range plans for the institutional and financial viability of the Institute especially as our outreach continues to grow and as we move toward the fulfillment of the financial commitment of the Home Missions Leadership Conference next year.

Implementing the Vision of Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord


Recently, I attended my first meeting as a Consultant to the USCCB Subcommittee on Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service. It was enlightening and encouraging to find the bishops of the Subcommittee dedicated to moving forward the vision of the document Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord and bringing in a tremendous group of consultants from the field to assist them. For a list of the Bishop members and the Consultants, click here. Thanks to the openness of the Bishops on the Subcommittee, the Consultants will not be mere yes-persons, but will have a voice on par with the bishop members.

The Subcommittee is new. Previously, the Commission on Certification and Accreditation was an independent body separate from the Bishop's Conference and its focus was on accrediting lay ecclesial ministry formation programs and approving standards and procedures for certification. A task force of the USCCB headed by Bishop Aymond proposed that especially with the new certification standards and national certification process, the Subcommittee be formed to approve processes of certification rather than programs of formation. This is the mandate of the new subcommittee that is now part of the USCCB structure. This marks a new day for lay ministry for the Catholic Church in the United States. Now the process of reviewing national competencies for leadership roles and approving standards and procedures for certification is directly overseen by the Bishops themselves through the Subcommittee. This is as it should be.

According to its mandate, the Subcommittee reviews and approves certification standards and procedures to be used on a voluntary basis by arch/dioceses and national organizations in the certification of specialized ecclesial ministers in such roles as campus minister, parish catechetical leader, youth minister, pastoral associate, director of music ministries, as well as hospital, prison, and seafarer chaplaincies. It also offers consultative services aimed at improving the quality of lay ministry formation programs. Its mandate specifically refers to Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord, which is considered the touchstone for the concerns and priorities of the U.S. Bishops for ministry, namely, that those who minister in the name of the Catholic Church, are humanly and spiritually mature, well-prepared through education and formation, possess professional competence and pastoral skills, and adhere to the authentic teaching of the Church.

The Subcommittee’s mandate goes beyond overseeing processes of certification to advocacy as well as consultancy. In its advocacy role, the Subcommittee is to promote the development and application of voluntary certification standards for specialized ministry based on Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord. The Subcommittee will also offer consultation, upon request, to lay ministry formation programs to improve their quality and effectiveness in accord with Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord and other relevant pastoral documents. There is much work to be done. This Subcommittee is the right group to do it. I am honored to be included and pleased to bring the unique perspective of the Congar Institute and our concern for lay ecclesial ministry formation in under-served regions of the country to the work of the Subcommittee.

Breathtaking Grace


There are many graced moments in our work, but occasionally I am so overwhelmed by our experience that it takes my breath away. Early April took my breath away. The request for several Lenten spiritual formation events in the Diocese of Salt Lake City was met by the Congar Institute sending Sr.Ruth Bolarte, IHM and me. At the same time that I was directing a day of prayer in English for about 150 participants, Sr. Ruth was in another building on the same campus doing the same thing for the same number of Spanish-speaking people. At lunch time, 300 voices came together to sing the grace before our shared meal: Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow/Alabado Sea Dios!

Sr. Ruth and I both focused on the Year of Faith and the call to a new evangelization during the day of prayer, which is the same evangelization, but for a new time. Both groups came together again for the celebration of the Eucharist at the end.

Sr. Ruth commented: “What a privilege to share our faith experience with the Hispanic people of Salt Lake City! It was my first time visiting this area in the United States. I now have an inkling of what it means to be a Catholic in an area where Catholics are a minority. The steadfastness and spirit of commitment to the Church in this area are evident as I listened to some of the participants. Many had travelled as much as five hours to be part of this Lenten retreat. Through their enthusiasm and eagerness to deepen their faith to better minister the People of God, truly, the Hispanic Community is a blessing to the Church of Salt Lake City.”

The grace did not end there for me. After Mass, I was taken to dinner and then to the airport to catch a flight to St. George, UT to repeat the day of prayer the next day for the catechists of the region who have been involved in a formation process over the year, assisted by several Resource Persons from the Congar Institute. Those 30 catechists were joined by about 100 other parishioners from the region and we had an excellent day of prayer.

Again, following the retreat, I was taken to dinner and then to the airport to return to Salt Lake City to repeat the day of prayer a third time for a gathering of the Catholic School Principals of the Diocese. There were about 18 principals present.

The Congar Institute assist the Diocese of Salt Lake City in providing spiritual formation events like these because it is part of a larger strategy of lay leadership formation. First, all that we do has as its theological background the universal call to all the baptized to be, as Benedict XVI put it, “co-responsible for the church’s being and activity.” He based this observation on the teachings of Vatican II, and we are proud to point out that they can be traced back to the work of our namesake, fr. Yves Congar, OP. The Year of Faith and the focus on the New Evangelization provide an especially rich opportunity to raise awareness of this message among all Catholics. Therefore, these spiritual formation events serve the dual purpose of continuing the formation for lay leaders in the Church in Utah, whether they are Catholic School principals or catechists in St. George, or participants in the English- and Spanish-speaking lay ecclesial ministry formation programs.

Particularly for those practicing ministry, such events offer vision, encouragement, and nourishment for their ministry. For the broader participants, these events help to develop a culture of shared responsibility for the mission of the church in Utah. It makes ordinary Catholics who attend these events more aware of their baptismal call and it may begin to help them discern their own call to leadership in the Diocese. This eventually encourages some to consider entering formation for ministry and provides a continuing means for increasing the excellence of ministry throughout the diocese. That, after all, is our mission at the Congar Institute for Ministry Development.
Click here to read Intermountian Catholic’s article

Forming Ambassadors of Christ's Reconciliation


Fr. Wayne Cavalier, OP represented the Congar Institute when the Association of Graduate Programs in Ministry gathered at the Franciscan Spirituality Center in Tampa, FL for its annual meeting in February. Focusing on the theme, "A New Creation: Ministry as Reconciliation," the members reflected on reconciliation on the global, ecclesial, and institutional levels. They also gained insights on how to better prepare our ministry students and co-workers in formation for the work of reconciliation. Renowned missiologist Fr. Robert Schreiter of the Catholic Theological Union was the main speaker supplemented by members who provided a variety of perspectives on the experience and practice of reconciliation.

The Association also honored Dr. Marti Jewel with the "Called and Gifted Award" during the Saturday evening banquet. The award, inaugurated at the 2006 Annual Meeting, recognizes the honoree's integrity, scholarship, and longevity of service to the church and AGPIM as a ministry educator. Dr. Jewel is presently serving on the faculty at the University Of Dallas School Of Ministry and previously was the Director of the Emerging Models of Pastoral Leadership project, a major collaborative study of pastoral leadership practices emerging in the Catholic Church in the United States.

Two Good Books


Two excellent books for those in ministry are Introducing the Practice of Ministry by Kathleen Cahalan, which provides a contemporary interdisciplinary introduction to pastoral theology, and A Concise Guide to Adult Faith Formation by Neil Parent, a practical look at the topic focusing on aspects you would not find elsewhere. You can read Fr. Wayne Cavalier’s book reviews of these published in the June 2012 edition of the Journal of Adult Theological Education.


285 Oblate Drive
San Antonio, TX 78216-6693
Email: congarinstitute@ost.edu
Phone: 210-341-1366 Ext. 269
Fax: 210-341-4519

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