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Despite program closing, lay formation will continue, say officials

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Though the Archdiocesan Institute for Ministry officially closed along with the fiscal year on June 30, the heart of the program will continue in the new the Lay Ministry Formation Program said Sister Clare Bertero, director of the Office of Religious Education.

"AIM as we know it, that office has been closed," she said. "The core or the foundational piece of it, the theological basis for which all ministers come before they go into separate skills tracks, has been retained."

The change, made due to financial constraints, will mean fewer classes and training programs available to laity, Sister Clare said. Yet, she said, the new formation program will work with other archdiocesan offices in order to provide as many opportunities as possible.

"Lay ministry formation is still a priority," she said.

The new program will focus on formation of laity while working closely with other offices to provide opportunities for laity to gain specific skills, said Cathy Minkiewicz, who will head the new program as the director of adult faith and lay ministry formation. She added that she will work with the Family Life Office and Pastoral Visitation Office on their programs.

"We're trying to work collaboratively," said Minkiewicz, who has been involved with AIM for 10 years. "Through the Office of Religious Education we're going to be offering the basic overview of Catholic beliefs course, and we ourselves are going to be offering a catechist formation skills training session on top of that."

The change leads the program, which began as a central formation program which collaborated with other offices, back to its roots, she added.

"The crisis of finances and things like that have forced us to pull back and say, 'Okay, what is it that we're really about?'" she said. "AIM had some wonderful vision, wonderful ideas, and we don't want to lose those, but we just feel we have to go back to step-one at this time and really start building up again."

"We want to reemphasize what it is exactly we're really doing and that's preparing and helping laity to participate more fully in the life of the Church and the running of the churches. Obviously it's being called for from all sides, both from the bishops and from the laity," she continued. "People are saying that the laity need to participate in a knowledgeable way more in the life of the parish and be involved in decision making."

Anyone who wants to be more involved in parish ministry, from being a catechist to a sacristan, can participate in the program in order to have a better idea of what church is about, Minkiewicz said. Some parishioners will have the opportunity to participate in programs sponsored by their parish or cluster and others will be able to attend open enrollment sessions.

Unlike the Master’s of Arts in Ministry Program at St. John’s Seminary, the Lay Ministry Formation Program is not a degree program and is open to those seeking a basic overview of Church teaching for adults, she said.

The format is different from the catechesis children receive because adults are more able to understand paradox and abstract ideas, while children learn through pictures, she added.

"When we teach children, we tend to use picture language, and so we think of the Trinity as two men with beards and a bird," she said. "With adults we talk of the Trinity as the relationship of love that is God. It's the same Trinity, but approached from a more adult level."

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