What is the Lay Leadership and Diaconal Formation Program?
During our Annual Bishop’s Gala, I officially announced the inauguration of our Lay Leadership and Diaconal Formation Program, to start in September 2021!
I specifically mention “Lay Leadership” and “Diaconate” together in the same breath. This is intentional, as I see them as one and the same program, albeit with some formation particular to one path as opposed to the other.
The intention of this initiative is simple: to foster “active disciples” whereby the faithful – laity, consecrated, monastic, and clergy alike – use their God-given gifts and talents to build up the Kingdom of God as active participants, not just spectators, both in their own faith journey as well as in the life of the Church.
Led by the Holy Spirit, the launch of the Lay Leadership and Diaconal Formation Program marks our next steps taken on our path toward the implementation of our 25 Year Eparchial Pastoral Plan and our “Vibrant Parish” worldwide spiritual renewal initiatives.
Inspire Change and Become a Lay Leader or a Deacon Today!
Foundational Scripture Passages
Two scripture passages form the spiritual foundation of the Lay Leadership and Diaconal Formation Program.
First, just as Jesus entrusted the mission of the Church to the disciples of his day, so are we tasked with spreading the Gospel message and Christ’s teachings throughout the world today. This is our “Great Commissioning:”
The Commissioning of the Disciples (Matthew 28: 16-20)
“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”
Second, Jesus’ mission of proclaiming the Good News of the Gospel and of salvation is the work of all of God’s people – laity, consecrated, monastic, and clergy alike, each according to their particular background and gifts. It is not the work of priests alone to evangelize, but of all of us. Indeed, “priesthood” in the early Church referred not strictly to the ordained, but to all the baptized, who thus comprise the “royal priesthood of the baptized.” This in no way diminishes the ordained priesthood as we know it today, as ordained priests have a specific role in preaching the Word of God and celebrating the Eucharist. Rather, the recovery of the “royal priesthood of the baptized” restores the vocation of each person to be “active disciples,” according to Jesus’ call and will for us.
The Royal Priesthood of the Baptized (1 Peter 2:9)
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
These two scripture passages set the foundation for a renewed effort to engage all the faithful and encourage them to use their gifts and talents in building up the Kingdom of God.
Training and Formation
Understandably, in order to be successful in these ministries, lay leaders and deacons must be properly trained and formed. To set them up for success, we must provide them with solid spiritual and integrated Christian formation, thereby fostering fruitful ministry and service to the Church. However, not everyone will require the same degree of training and formation.
Lay leaders will benefit from a two-year program of study and formation, comprised of bi-monthly weekend instruction while following a Certificate in Catholic Studies (12 courses, 5 weeks in length each) at Newman Theological College. The first year will be dedicated to an introduction to the Sacred Scriptures, theology, liturgy and spirituality. The second year will focus more specifically on the given area of ministry in which the lay leader is planning to serve within the parish.
Deacons, who dedicate themselves to permanent service in the Church, will require a four-year program, also comprised of bi-monthly weekend instruction (at times together with the lay leaders) while following a Certificate in Eastern Theology (10 courses at the undergraduate level), also at Newman Theological College.
Lay leaders and deacons, in turn, will train and form others in the parish to be active disciples so they too can share their gifts and talents within parish and beyond.
Applications, Program Costs, and Further Information
The pastor and parish pastoral council members are invited to meet to review the needs of the parish and then to propose suitable candidates for given areas of ministry which will enhance the overall spiritual life of the parish.
A given parish is not limited in the number of lay candidates the parish wishes to propose for the program of formation.
Should a parish wish to propose candidates for the diaconate, in order to provide balance between lay and diaconal ministries, the parish must propose at least one lay candidate for every diaconal candidate.
The parish is responsible for the tuition fees associated with courses offered through Newman Theological College. Currently, each five-week course for the Certificate in Catholic Studies costs some $100, including textbook. Each undergraduate course in the Certificate in Eastern Theology costs some $720, excluding textbooks. If the parish wishes, the formation costs may be shared between the candidate and the parish.
The Eparchy of Edmonton, by way of making an investment in lay leadership and diaconal formation, will cover the administration, oversight, and support of the candidates, as well as costs associated with the weekend formation sessions, excluding lodging.
Completed applications are to be forwarded by May 31, 2021 to the Eparchy of Edmonton by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by regular mail: Lay Leadership and Diaconate Formation Program, Eparchy of Edmonton, 9645 – 108 Avenue, Edmonton, AB, T5H 1A3.
The applications will be reviewed by June 30, 2021 by the Sacred Orders and Ministries Commission, and the candidates notified of their acceptance.
Transforming the World!
Lay leadership and the diaconate are not at all new to the Church. However, a collective effort on the part of the bishop and the faithful of the Eparchy of Edmonton to foster a lay leadership and diaconate formation program is.
Like all the faithful, lay leaders and deacons are the face of Christ, not only for those whom they serve in their parishes, but also for their families, neighbours, co-workers, friends and strangers, alike.
Together, as the entire Body of Christ, we can inspire and transform the world, one day at a time, through active engagement with one another in faith and in service to God and the Church!
May God bless our Lay Leadership and Diaconate Formation Program.