by Cruz-Teresa Rosero
“What did May 16, 2013 mean to you? What were your biggest struggles during the three years of study in the Lay Ministry Program? What did it mean to both of you to study as a couple?”
I put these questions to Rita and Domingo Reyes, from the parish of St. Agatha, Sunset Park.
Their response: “May 16, the day of our commissioning as lay pastoral leaders, meant happiness, the satisfaction of an accomplished goal. Our biggest struggle was to persevere, so that when we had difficulties we claimed the help and strength of the Holy Spirit. It was a great experience to study together, to share and discuss ideas to develop the integration papers.”
Rita adds, “This is not like when we were studying in college and fell in love; this is bigger because this is about fulfilling God’s plan in our lives. We are now more committed to our church, to working together in strengthening our faith, and to be an example to other couples.”
This program to prepare persons for lay leadership was extended and expanded in 2000 under the leadership of then-Bishop Thomas V. Daily, “in the spirit of Vatican II and the Seventh Diocesan Synod.”
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio also recognizes the importance of preparing lay leaders to work with pastors, to serve on the parish councils, to become bridges for peoples of different languages and to put their gifts at the service of the people, especially in parishes in which there is only one priest assigned.
The Pastoral Institute, the diocesan agency which sponsors the program, has grown at various levels. The Spanish and English programs have been unified, and a third year has been added that focuses on leadership training for a specific pastoral ministry such as pastoral care of the sick, bereavement ministry, consolation ministry, youth ministry, liturgical planning and others.
For those interested in pursuing a master’s degree, there are scholarships, offered in collaboration with the Office of Faith Formation and the Catholic Foundation for Brooklyn and Queens, at St. John’s University, Fordham University and St. Joseph’s Seminary at Huntington, L.I.
The director of the program is Gerald Tortorella, and the associate director is Nelsa Elias, fluent in Spanish and English. Both attended the program from which they were commissioned. They continued their graduate studies at St. John’s University.
Over the course of three years, participants nominated by their pastors take classes in various fields of theology. They receive not only theological but also spiritual formation, in addition to supervised practice in a specific ministry to be exercised voluntarily in their parishes.
Euler Miranda, from the parish of Presentation of the Blessed Vigin Mary in Jamaica, says that with the training he received in the program he feels “equipped to use it in his youth ministry and charismatic prayer groups, where there is a great need of catechetical formation.”Jacqueline Perez, second-generation Puerto Rican, chose to take classes in English because it is her primary language. She said that her experience in the Pastoral Institute has been one of great doctrinal and spiritual growth.
“As a Nuyorican, raised in the faith, this opportunity has been a blessing. This program has taught me to be a ‘servant leader,’ which I learned through the humility, knowledge and experience not only of my instructors but also of my peers.”
Classes begin each September in Brooklyn and Queens. Plans for 2014 are underway and will be announced in March.
The Institute also offers a 10-week program totaling 20 hours, “Foundations for Ministry,” for those who are already engaged in parish ministry and who are discerning about their participation in the three-year Lay Ministry Program. These classes begin in September and February, both in Brooklyn and Queens.
For more information about the programs offered by the Pastoral Institute, you can visit the diocesan website: http://www.dioceseofbrooklyn.org/lay_leadership/.
Many thanks to those who have been prepared by the Pastoral Institute and who give so freely and enthusiastically of their time and talents. And, of course, a warm welcome to all newcomers. Glory be the Lord!