Dinner spotlights lay ministry formation


HAMMONTON — The roofer to fix a church emergency is on the way. Then the pastor gets a call: a family is seeking sacramental help and spiritual support for a patient in a hospital.

Where does Father go?

Anne Marie Gavin, business administrator at St. Andrew the Apostle Church in Gibbsboro, has seen the scenario, which she shared at a panel discussion held before a Nov. 10 dinner to honor benefactors to the diocesan Lay Ministry Formation Program.

Father, said Gavin, belongs at the hospital. Others can worry about the roof.

Learning how to offer such support as a lay person in parish ministry is a main motivation behind Gavin’s studies at Villanova University, where she is a student in the school’s Master of Science in Church Management.

She is among 269 students from the diocese who are a part of the program in Lay Ministry Formation, begun under the direction of Sister Roseann Quinn. The program provides education for lay ministry for students from the diocese who pay a third of the tuition costs, with their parishes and the diocese providing the rest. Students attend classes in theology, spirituality, church management and other topics at schools which include Villanova, the College of St. Elizabeth, Georgian Court University, Neumann University and the University of Dayton. Classes are given in parishes and retreat centers in the diocese or online.

Linda Robinson, director of the program, noted that a recent study indicated that there are more than 40,000 trained lay ministers working in parishes across the United States. While there was a need seen in the Diocese of Camden to train lay ministers, there are no Catholic colleges in South Jersey.

But Bishop Galante, in remarks before the dinner, noted, “thanks to our partners, we have created one.”

The program offers more than book knowledge. It has changed the way they look at God and themselves, students said during the panel discussion.

“I am being educated and being fed. It has given me a lot of confidence,” said Barbara Sykora, director of liturgy and music at St. Isidore Church in Vineland. As a result of studying parish life ministries at the College of St. Elizabeth, Sykora said she became more enthused and confident in expanding the choral music and other programs in the parish.

Arcelio Rullan, a leader in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults and in religious education at St. Joseph Pro-Cathedral Church in Camden, said that his master’s theology studies at Georgian Court University has made more than a ministry impact. It has shaken his entire being.

“I’m so close to God that I’m scared,” he said.

Bishop Galante noted in his remarks that the formation program is a concrete way for the church to move beyond the model of “pay, pray and obey” often presented to laypeople in the past.

“Seed, deed, and lead,” he said was a better reflection of the church’s Vatican II theology, which called upon all Christians to recognize their call to ministry.

People in the diocese who are part of the Lay Ministry Formation process are planting the seeds of the Gospel, are working to preach the Good News and are asserting themselves in parish leadership, said the bishop.

(For more information about Lay Ministry Formation in the Diocese of Camden contact Linda Robinson at 856-583-6116).