Rolando Moreno
Rolando Moreno

Listen up, regular Catholics who sense a call to parish ministry but don’t feel prepared. The Institute for Catholic Life and Leadership wants you.

The institute, created by the Archdiocese of Portland Office of Catechesis and Faith Formation, aims to form witnesses for faith in western Oregon.

The training is for anyone, but is aimed at catechists, youth ministers, directors of religious education, pastoral associates and even liturgical musicians — or those who want to enter those posts. The idea is to give a solid formation to those who are forming others.

“We want people to have a big picture view of the Catholic faith,” says Rolando Moreno, director of the Office of Catechesis and Faith Formation.

A primary program offered by the institute is a foundational certificate for lay ministry formation. Over two years, students will spend 16 Fridays-Saturdays on the fundamentals of Catholicism, salvation history in Scripture, Jesus as God and human, church history, liturgy, sacraments, life in Christ, prayer, and the beatitudes. The classes compare to undergraduate level work and will include reading, writing papers and giving presentations to the group. There will be Mass on Saturdays.

“We want it to be challenging but not overwhelming,” says Moreno. “It’s meant to create understanding, not confusion.”

Courses will offer not just knowledge, but skills in communication, listening, apologetics and evangelization, says Miriam Marston, a coordinator for the Office of Pastoral Ministries.

Even lay ministers who have been at it for years can be helped by refresher courses, Marston says.

“The relationship with Christ is a well that does not run dry,” she explains. “It’s always worth going back to give that central relationship attention.”

Classes for 2017-2018 start Sept. 23 and will be held at St. Edward Parish in Keizer, so Portlanders and people downstate have a fair trip. Tuition is $500 per year, with books extra. Registration deadline is Aug. 15.

Moreno says catechists are not mere dispensers of information, but are witnesses, sharing their faith and teaching best by their lives. He quotes Pope Paul VI from the 1975 apostolic exhortation “Evangelli Nuntiandi”: “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”

The lives of the saints will play a large role in the institute’s programs. That, Marston says, reveals how many different ways God can work through a person.

Separately, the institute offers less-demanding online formation in English and Spanish for catechists through the My Catholic Faith Delivered curriculum. Class topics include the creed, liturgy, sacraments, life in Christ, prayer, Scripture, catechesis and Theology of the Body.

Classes have eight lessons, each of which takes about an hour to complete. An entire class, about eight hours, costs $29.

Also on the institute’s agenda is a lecture series that will bring Catholic intellectuals, authors and scholars to Oregon.

Moreno says the church overall has been working to improve faith formation, aware that many Catholics say they thirst for more.

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