“Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus,” Pope Francis wrote in his 2013 Apostolic Exhortation, “Evengelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel). “We no longer say that we are ‘disciples’ and ‘missionaries,’ but rather that we are always ‘missionary disciples.’”
The pope emphasized a personal encounter with Christ to all the faithful through the gift of servant leadership – the “New Evangelization.”
In response to this invitation, Brooklyn Diocese Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio established the Secretariat for Evangelization and Catechesis, to develop strong lay leadership in the diocese.
The Holy Spirit Institute for Service and Leadership was formed in June 2017 under the Secretariat, tasked with formally educating men and women called to serve as missionary disciples.
On May 16, the Brooklyn Diocese honored the service of laymen and women at the eighth annual diocesan recognition Mass and celebration, at Saint Nicholas of Tolentine Church in Jamaica.
Hosted by the Holy Spirit Institute Service and Leadership Program with the diocese, the event recognized the achievements of lay leaders and graduates of the program, each of whom have served the diocese for a number of years in different roles, from local parish leaders to pre-Cana educators and youth catechists.
Auxiliary Bishop Witold Mroziewski celebrated the Mass with more than 600 in attendance.
“Brothers and sisters, you have demonstrated your desire to serve your communities as missionary disciples,” Bishop Mroziewski said. “Your call to holiness and ministry is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Your response is a gift to the Church and the world.”
8th annual diocesan recognition Mass and celebration at Saint Nicholas of Tolentine Church in Jamaica. (Photos: Obed Lima)
After Mass, more than 50 participants and alumni of the Holy Spirit Institute were honored and recognized with a certificate of completion.
Bishop Mroziewski prayed for the honorees, calling them forth in their mission ‘to render service and leadership in the parishes of the diocese,” with the faithful confidence that “it all comes from God.”
“The mission and purpose of the Holy Spirit Institute is to train parish leaders in all aspects of parish life,” said Theodore Musco, secretary for evangelization and catechesis for the diocese. “We hope it helps people discern their God-given vocation and unique role in the parish.”
Pastors and administrators can nominate active parishioners to different formation programs within the Institute. The different academic, spiritual, human, pastoral and professional tracks are designed to address the life of the parish, and of the church as a whole: from social justice, evangelization and natural family planning, to RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults), faith-sharing and prison visitation ministry.
“This formal ceremony and Mass is the perfect prayerful opportunity to celebrate, as a diocesan catechetical community and family, and to recognize just how many people are actively involved in the church of Brooklyn and Queens,” Musco said. “We recognize their service and leadership, and we want to show other people that it is not only possible to become actively involved in the church, it is more than necessary to get involved in the church.”
The Holy Spirit Institute aims to train lay leaders. Students who wish to take classes in person can take approved credit programs at Fordham University or St. John’s University. Students can also obtain an associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree, as well as a graduate certificate through Catholic Distance University, an online theology and training education program based in West Virginia.
Marianne Evans Mount, president of Catholic Distance University, was also honored with the annual Diocesan Collaboration Award.
“We need good lay leadership in the parish; especially with fewer priests and religious sisters, we need a well-trained and informed laity,” added Musco. “With more people learning about their faith, it is important we also have good lay leaders in the local parishes to build up our church.”