Helping prepare others for ministry
I have been a part of the adjunct teaching faculty of Siena Heights University since 2000. That year I was asked to teach a course on the preparation of liturgical celebrations as part of the ministry formation program of our diocese. The program is a joint effort on the part of our diocese and Siena Heights. It was jointly developed in order to provide academic theological formation for those who serve our parishes as professionals in ministry, as well as those who are preparing for the permanent diaconate. The courses are also available to any Catholic who wishes to have a deeper academic formation with regard to faith. This makes for a diverse collection of students, including those who are already engaged in parish ministry – such as parish faith formation directors, school principals, youth ministers, directors of the catechumenate process, parish musicians, and more. Most of them are already employed full-time in their parishes or they are preparing to seek parish employment. They come with such diverse backgrounds and levels of experience, but all of them have a love for their faith and a desire to learn more about it so that they can share it more effectively. I am happy to be a part of this process.
At the same time, when I begin each teaching term, I am careful to remind students that I am ordained as a priest to serve the people of our diocese, and that I serve as pastor of a parish. That means that there are certain instances in which the needs of the parish will take a higher priority than our meetings in class. Thanks be to God this sort of interference does not happen often, but it does happen from time to time, and students seem to be very understanding of this.
One might wonder why I have taken part in this program for so long. Certainly, my parish responsibilities can keep me pretty well occupied, and the magazine you are reading also requires some of my time, too. Yet I do the best I can to maintain my involvement in the teaching aspect of the ministry formation program because I feel called to do so out of gratitude for the gift of my education in seminary.
Essentially, I was given a five-year scholarship by the people of our diocese that allowed me to attend a top-flight graduate school of theology, receive good academic and spiritual formation, as well as the practical preparation I would need to serve as a priest and eventually as a pastor. That education was not inexpensive, and the funds that made it possible came from folks who supported the annual Diocesan Services Appeal – the DSA. I have always felt it was my duty to give back what I was given during those years of seminary, and the inspiration and academic formation that were a part of them.
Taking an ongoing teaching role in the ministry formation program is my own little way of expressing my gratitude for a gift that was given to me so many years ago. It also offers me the opportunity to meet some wonderful people who are on their own unique journey of preparation for ministry. They inspire me, and their questions and curiosity keep me on my toes as I prepare for each class. This brings me life and joy. I hope in some small way I am able to give back what I have been given in abundance.
And so, our journey in FAITH continues.