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

"Peace I leave with you; my peace
  I give you" (Jn 14:27)



Lizett our Administrative Assistant, recently went on assignment to interview some of the participants in our lay ministry formation program in the Salt Lake City Diocese. There she met Noe and Marina, to whom Lizett felt especially drawn.

Here are Lizett's words:

"Noe and Mariana are a young Catholic immigrant couple with small children living in Utah, where Catholics are a minority. Noe and Mariana are eager to learn more about their faith. Their desire to live their faith is compelling. Even more striking, however, is how they communicate peace. I was instantly drawn by the aura of peace that surrounded them. Noe and Mariana are lay volunteers who are part of the Lay Ecclesial Ministry Formation Program. They are not only learning church history, theology, and pastoral skills but most importantly they are learning to take the Gospel teachings to their daily family life and to share it with all others who want to be followers of Jesus.

"This young couple travels about two hours each way to attend sessions of the Congar Institute formation program, sometimes through dangerous winter mountain passages. I am sure their children find it difficult to understand what motivates their parents to sacrifice this time with them. One might think the questioning of their small children, the long, sometimes dangerous travel conditions they face, all the sacrifices they make to attend the formation sessions could steal away their gift of peace. Yet they remain in God's peace as persons, as a couple, as a family committed to their ministry. What motivates them? The answer is simple yet fascinating: they feel called by God and by their community to serve as committed lay persons. They see themselves, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI as 'really "co-responsible" for the church's being and acting.' Their response to the call reassures them, it gives them peace."

There are many other committed lay Catholics like Noe and Mariana around the U.S. who long to respond to their call to serve and to be enriched by formal theological education. They simply do not have access because of geography or lack of resources. The Congar Institute wants to reach them and the dioceses that so desperately need their service.
You can help. You can support lay leadership development and empower lay leaders in rural dioceses like Salt Lake. Your charitable gift will help us to bring the gift of peace to good people like Noe and Mariana by providing them the means to respond to their call to serve their communities faithfully and competently.

If you are already supporting the Congar Institute, please accept our most sincere thanks and that of Noe and Mariana.

Thank you for your prayers, for your generosity, and for your support of our mission.

Yours in the peace of Christ,
Fr. Wayne Cavalier, OP

Faith Leads Us to Encounter God and His Love

By Alejandro Siller-González, MAS


Within this month of February we experience two different moments of life celebration that seem opposed to each other. The first moment is in the liturgical year with the end of a period of Ordinary time and the beginning of the Lenten Season with Ash Wednesday. The second and very popular moment is filled with carnival feast days celebrated just before Ash Wednesday. In addition, this year we also have Valentine’s Day, where friendship and love is celebrated.

The contrasts of ordinary life and religious celebrations sometimes cause in us confusion and a sense of anxiety and emptiness, even a sense of guilt. It seems as if we are celebrating two different lives, one is our visible, ordinary, daily life and the other is the interior or spiritual one. For some, social and Church celebrations oppose each other, as if the latter were “holier” than the other, as if one is good and the other is not.

How do we then integrate and give meaning to all our celebrations, as one with our life and our Christian values?

During the Lenten Season our Church invites us to review what we need to change or do to make our lives whole and to grow in faith, so this may be a good time to reflect on this question. The ordinariness of our lives is transcendental and long lasting but only if we see it and live it through the eyes of our faith. In our personal and communal celebrations we want to recognize, remember and celebrate life events that are important to us, and that is good and necessary; but without faith and love, those human expressions are not lasting and meaningful and sometimes fail to uphold the dignity of life itself. The celebrations in our liturgical year also need to be lived out based on faith and love in order to become a meaningful part of the ordinariness of our lives.

In light of the above, our cultural, social and Church celebrations will provide us with the gifts of joy, peace, gratitude, hope and wholeness, as well as communal unity in Jesus Christ our Lord. Let us then celebrate all moments of our lives!

This reflection was inspired by our Holy Father Benedict XVI’s last Lenten Season message as Pontific of our Church. In gratitude we join in prayer for his wellbeing in his future path of life after having expressed his resignation to the Seat of St. Peter by the end of this month.

A Day of Dialogue between Life and Tradition

By Fr. Wayne Cavalier, OP


“Theological Reflection” was the topic of a recent pastoral skills formation event I facilitated as part of the Lay Ecclesial Ministry Formation Program for the Diocese of Salt Lake City, Utah. The 25 lay ecclesial ministers in their final year of formation were encouraged to integrate the practice of theological reflection into their practice of ministry. Killen and de Beer, in The Art of Theological Reflection, define theological reflection as “the discipline of exploring individual and corporate experience in conversation with the wisdom of a religious heritage. The conversation is a genuine dialogue that seeks to hear from our own beliefs, actions, and perspectives, as well as those of the tradition. It respects the integrity of both. Theological reflection therefore may confirm, challenge, clarify, and expand how we understand our own experience and how we understand the religious tradition. The outcome is new truth and meaning for living.”

During the session, I was able to share with the LEM formation program participants the biblical and historical foundations for theological reflection in ministry. We also studied the methods of theological reflection developed by the Whiteheads and Thomas Groome as well as others. Students had the opportunity to practice and observe theological reflection during the day. As we learn about and practice theological reflection, the church’s hope is that its ministers can integrate their ministerial experience, the dynamics of culture, and their theological formation to discover new truth and meaning for life and ministry and transformational power that results.

Enjoy and Be Amazed at True Commitment!

By Lizett Farias


Last year I traveled to Utah to meet our collaborators from the Diocese of Salt Lake City and the students from the Lay Ecclesial Ministry formation programs. During my visit, I was able to record a few video testimonials that have helped me understand, to a much greater extent, the impact of Lay Ecclesial Ministry formation in mission Dioceses like Salt Lake City, and the key role the Congar Institute plays in this collaborative effort. Many students do not live in Salt Lake City and they have to travel long distances to attend the special sessions, some as long as three or four hours. Some others, because of the intellectual formation they are receiving, have taken on new ministry service in television, preaching and teaching. Some expressed how true knowledge of our Catholic faith has been liberating to them; it has truly made them free. Others highlighted the value of human formation the program brings to their lives, while others expressed special thanks for the spiritual development opportunities they encounter while in the LEM program.

The experience of recording these videos gave me a holistic understanding of the richness and value of the work we do at the Congar Institute and how it impacts the local Church. I hope they do the same for you. Click here to enjoy and be amazed at true Christian discipleship!

Pastoral Principles for Hispanic Ministry: A Historical Memory of the “Encuentros de Pastoral Hispana”


The Emmaus Formation Program for Lay Ecclesial Ministers in the Diocese of Salt Lake City continues with its third year of formation. Recently Fr. Domingo Rodriguez, ST, facilitated the class “Pastoral Principles for Hispanic Ministry.” The day of study had the objective of knowing the historical memory of the Hispanic people in the United States in light of the main documents that resulted from the three national “Encuentros” (1972, 1977 and 1985). The emphasis of the day was to show how the pastoral principles that emerged from the three “Encuentros” are still necessary today for the development of Hispanic Ministry in the Church.

Fr. Rodriguez shared with us a few words regarding his participation: “I am very satisfied with the general flow of the session, especially with the avidity of the participants and their notable interest in the topics presented. The theme that I was asked to present is part of my experience since 1980. I was part of the National Facilitating Team of the third Encuentro. I felt very comfortable with the topic. During the class, there was exchange of questions and comments that showed the participants’ engagement and commitment. They showed themselves as very capable of dialogue.” In reference to the general Emmaus Formation Program Fr. Rodriguez said he felt “admiration for the achievement of maintaining a formation program for the laity, so well organized, and with many moments of prayer that are very inspiring.”

Congar Institute’s list of upcoming events for February and March 2013:



  •   Association of Graduate Programs in Ministry Conference in Tampa, Florida.
  •   Annual Lenten Retreats for the Diocese of Salt Lake City (English and Spanish)
  •   Regional Lenten Retreat at St. George Parish, Utah.
  •   Day of Prayer for Catholic school principals from the Diocese of Salt Lake City.
  •   Visit to Diocese of Sacramento to conduct on-site interviews as part of the ongoing Inventory.
  •   Meeting of the USCCB Subcommittee on Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service.
  •   Holy Week services at Norfolk Prison in Massachusetts.

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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