Program #0010 for Tuesday, March 22, 2011: Theological Institute for the New Evangelization

March 22, 2011

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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Chris O’Connor

Today’s guest(s): Drs. David and Angela Franks and Dr. Aldona Lingertat of the Theological Institute for the New Evangelization at St. John’s Seminary

Today’s topics: The new Theological Institute for the New Evangelization at St. John’s Seminary and a new degree and certificates for laity, deacons, and religious that join the existing Master of Arts in Ministry program.

A summary of today’s show: The Theological Institute for the New Evangelization at St. John’s Seminary is preparing laypeople, deacons and religious to become energetic and knowledgable evangelists and missionaries within their own parishes and out in their homes, neighborhoods, and workplaces to bring about the new evangelization envisioned by Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Seán.

1st segment: Is God calling you to serve the Church as a professional lay minister or catechist? Or is God calling you to receive strong adult faith formation to know, share and defend the faith? If so, than today’s program is meant for you as we’ll be discussing the exciting new Institute at St. John’s Seminary for Adult Faith Formation.

Fr. Chris said last week that they had the annual St. Patrick’s Day dinner at St. John’s Seminary, including Irish song, Irish cheer, and limericks that poked fun of the faculty. On St. Joseph Day, he had Mass with the Missionaries of Charity and lots of zeppoli throughout the day. It’s an Italian pastry.

Scot said his wife had her birthday this weekend, so he was able to break his Lenten diet as planned. He also wished a happy birthday today to Maria Bain, station manager for WQOM.

2nd segment: Scot and Fr. Chris welcomed Aldona Lingertat and David and Angela Franks from TINE. David explained that St. John’s has gathered immense resources to train men for the diocesan priesthood, so St. John’s has made available these resources to laypeople who want to serve the Church. For the past decade that has been available through the Master’s in Ministry and now the institute further expands the offerings of those resources. St. John’s feels it’s crucial to make these resources available to support the new evangelization.

Angela said St. Patrick’s feast day was chosen to launch because he was an evangelist and missionary to a hostile culture and we live in a society and culture that is hostile to our faith. Scot also pointed out that as St. Patrick is the patron of the archdiocese it ties the work to the archdiocese. Fr. Chris concurred and added that they hope it also offers resources for other dioceses in the region as well. A seminary is the heart of the diocese, he said.

Aldona said the program students are all active in their parishes. The program makes sure the students are already active or asks them to become so first. They also offer a course in the basics of the Catholic faith as well. Scot noted that many Catholics, through no fault of their own, sometimes have not studied the faith as adults because formal religious instruction ended at confirmation. Angela said they found many people who come to their programs haven’t read the Catechism. Scot said being part of a community while learning the faith is more fun and rewarding than studying alone. Aldona said there’s an excitement in finding other people who care as much about the faith as you do. It helps grow and deepen your faith.

Scot finds two significant aspects to the name. First, that it is an institute at the seminary and, second, that it is for the new evangelization. Fr. Chris said it responds to Pope John Paul II’s call for a new evangelization marked by a newness in ardor, method and means. Pope Benedict has picked up on that theme and created a curial office dedicated to this work. It focuses not just on the missions abroad, but also on places where the Gospel has been proclaimed but the faith has been dimmed. Re-presenting the Gospel in ways accessible to today’s culture.

David said that calling it an institute means that the intention is to grow it larger. It is important that it is a theological institute, because a failure in theological work in recent years has led to a breakdown in communicating a straightforward belief in the divinity and resurrection of Christ and his mission in the world. The theological institute makes the riches of the faith available and says the seminary is here to empower the people to take hold of the means of theological communication, that you don’t have to wait for some theologian to speak, but you can make the Gospel known in the world.

Aldona said it is beneficial to have laypeople and religious study side-by-side in many cases with seminarians because when the students go out in to parishes the priests know that they have received solid instruction and a foundation for ministry.

3rd segment: Discussing the Master of Theological Studies for the New Evangelization program. Angela said it is different from the Master of Arts in Ministry, which is is a ministerial degree. Many students were asking for an academic degree. The whole-person formation of MTS is toward evangelizing the world, as opposed to parishes and the church sphere in MAM. She said it is an innovative degree, one of only a few programs of its type in the country.

David said that Vatican II said it was up to laypeople to evangelize and transform the world. The MTS degree takes theological, human, and apostolic formation and empowers the students to go out into their homes, workplaces, the political arena, and the marketplace. The MAM program is better for those looking to work in the Church, while MTS is about going out into other professions.

Angela said the whole-person formation goes beyond simply providing books and syllabi and instruction in the classroom. It acknowledges the need to nourish the vocation through spiritual formation and social formation and other ways that lead the person to the kind of depths they need to have the rich vocational role to play.

Fr. Chris made the distinction between education and formation. A typical university is concerned with the mind, but the institute is concerned with the mind and soul. Aldona added that they are teaching for belief. In most schools, people learn things, but not so they can believe. But TINE is educating for a believing community.

David spoke of the Friday colloquia for the MTS. They get together once per month on a Friday night to discuss great works of literature, art, music, philosophy and more. There’s a dynamism of ideas as the substance of the evening. They will engage these cultural treasures at a personal level. It’s more relaxed than a classroom setting.

Angela said the tasks of evangelization require practical experience in working with others and so literature can help one to gain life experience through understanding the insights that people before us have had.

The MTS classes will meet evenings on Tues, Wed, Thurs, 5pm-9:30pm. Taking classes full-time, the program should take 2 years. It is intended to allow people who have regular jobs to take part.

4th segment: Now discussing the Master of Arts in Ministry program, which has been in place in the archdiocese for more than 10 years. Fr. Chris said the people who enroll in MAM are moms, dads, people with full-time jobs committing to this additional work in order to serve the Church. Right now, in one class, he has a mechanic, a court stenographer, and a pastoral associate in a parish.

Aldona said they are approaching their 100th graduate. After they graduate, students often go into professional positions in parishes that are open to laity, including director of religious education, Catholic school teacher, high school and college campus minister, pastoral associate, health care ministry and chaplaincy. Some continue in their regular jobs outside the ministry, but become involved part-time or volunteer in their parishes.

Scot said pastoral planning surveys show there is a trend that parishes are going to need even more lay ministers in the future. Aldona said there’s a new trend as well that shows a number of adults who are ready to retire, who are still young and healthy and energetic, who want to still study and serve their parishes. There are MAM students who go full-time, but most students take 3 or 4 years. There is no pressure on students to complete on a particular schedule.

Scot said he has noticed a spirit in the MAM program and that the students are very close. Aldona said the classes have been built into a schedule that allows a lot of interaction. Classes take breaks at the same time, they have breaks for evening prayer. There are required monthly evenings where they have dinners and prayer together. Students stay in touch after graduation.

She said the typical workload requires 4-6 hours per week of study outside of the 1-2 classes per semester. They also have scholarship money available for tuition. She encourages interested people not to let money be an obstacle. Fr. Chris said they are seeing pastors supporting pastoral ministers in the parishes by paying for tuition.

There also audit options available for those who aren’t interested in the degree. Aldona said she sees the auditors even doing all the papers. She believes auditing is mostly due to finances, not time commitment.

This Thursday, March 24, at 149 Washington Street, Brighton, will be an open house, starting with evening prayer at 7pm and then a presentation afterward, a time for questions, and then meeting faculty and students.

5th segment: In addition to the degree programs, there are 4 catechetical certificate programs, some meeting on evenings and some on Saturdays. This is the main avenue for reaching large numbers of laypeople. They are geared to those who want to get a formation in the faith, grounded in the Catechism, so that they are able to communicate the love of Jesus Christ to the world. They have had the program for about 2 years. One track has been for catechesis, teaching the faith, and apologetics, knowing and defending the faith.

This fall, one Saturday per month for eight months, there will be two programs on catechetics and the basics of the Catholic faith. On the Saturdays they will have classes, small group sessions and the rest of the whole-person formation. They want Catholics to feel they can go out and talk about the truths of Jesus Christ and the Church without being defensive or nervous. Before and after the programs, they survey students about their comfort levels sharing their faith and afterward they always see students agree that they look forward to opportunities to evangelize in the world.

Scot said these programs meet a real need to learn the faith at a low cost, $300 or less, and without a large time commitment. Fr. Chris said the seminary’s goal is to help people to know the love of Christ and this helps people to come to know what the faith is all about. It acknowledges that the faith is attractive and the truth is attractive.

The catechetical certificate is aimed at DREs and catechists by providing practical skills in addition to theological instruction. The Catholicism certificate is for people who just want to learn more about their faith with the same sort of theological content, but aimed at helping them share their faith with friends and family. Parents are encouraged to attend the catechetical certificate to educate their own children.

As Cardinal Sean advances initiatives like Catholics Come Home, he needs an army of Catholics who know their faith and are energized to evangelize.

There will be a free Biblical study seminar on the Mondays of June, 7-9pm this year with Prof. Cecilia Sirois. This year the topic will be on the women of the Old and New Testament. They are planning a graduate certificate for teaching Scripture in parishes. Next spring, they will offer certificate on the New Evangelization. It is a more advanced level after the basic certificates. It will focus on explaining the tough issues that come up, including the hard teachings on sexuality, reservation of priesthood to men, and other controversial and misunderstood issues in the Church.

Fr. Chris said the wonderful thing is that TINE will be going out to parishes around the archdiocese to bring the good news of TINE to the people in the pews.

On April 8, TINE is holding the Co-workers in the Vineyard conference, whose topic is the parish of the future. It will include several keynote talks, breakout talks, and Mass with Cardinal Seán.

On April 9, from 1-3pm, St. John’s Medieros Classroom, chaplains from prison ministry will speak on the ministry and how one can support the ministry even for those who don’t feel called to go into prisons. Fr. Chris said it is part of the corporal works of mercy.

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