300-plus strong, laity complete ministry program

September 27, 2016

HOUSTON — To help empower catechists in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis (OEC) assists catechetical leaders in working towards full catechist certification to better serve their parish communities. On Sept. 6 at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo presented more than 300 individuals with initial or full Catechist certificates after they had completed numerous hours of rigorous study and various educational requirements.
Candidates for the recognitions work in parishes and have been through an extensive academic study of the faith, in addition to learning skills required to work for different age groups (adults, youth and children).

Debbie Jones, associate director with the Archdiocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis, said “In an effort to inform those who are lay leaders in their parishes Formation Towards Catechetical Ministry or FTCM was formed.” There is also a Spanish track entitled “Formación para el Ministerio Cristiano.”

FTCM/FPMC is the Archdiocesan program to teach theology or ministry. FTCM/FPMC provides authentic Catholic teachings taught by approved instructors with masters or doctorate degrees in theological disciplines to develop the basic academic, spiritual and critical reflection skills necessary for Catholic adults to fully answer their Baptismal call to service as a mature disciple.

“This is for all ministers, not just catechists,” Jones said. “It’s information for Christian ministry, not just catechetical ministry.”

There are several formation programs within the Archdiocese that use FTCM/FPMC as either a portion of their overall program or as a pre-requisite for entry into the program. These include, among others, catechist formation, catechetical leader formation and youth ministry leader formation.

The biggest award Cardinal DiNardo handed out on Sept. 6 was from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to a parish catechetical leader. Only five dioceses in four states have approved certification standards and procedures for certifying Ecclesial ministers, making the award highly exclusive. This year’s recipient of the “Certification as a Parish Catechetical Leader” was LouAnn Svoboda of Epiphany of the Lord Catholic Church in Katy.

“All catechists are working towards receiving their catechist certificate,” Jones said. “That is the goal.”

Around 200 attendees received the “Basic Formation for Catechetical Leaders” or “Formación Básica para Lideres Catequéticos” certificate. Two people received the “A Place For All” certificate for Ministry with Persons With Disabilities, and the “Catechesis of the Good Shepherd” certificates, which is a specific program on how to catechize, were given to 18 participants.

In addition, each year the Diocesan Board of Education presents service awards to catechists who have completed their 20th, 25th, 30th, 35th, 40th or more years of service to the catechetical ministry. 

Martha Gardner, 79, was this year’s 50th anniversary recipent. As a volunteer she taught catechism at St. Peter Claver Catholic Church for 27 years, then continued as a sacramental coordinator.

Gardner said she had the opportunity to work with all the pastors that have been at the church. Her favorite memory was working with the children.

“I love the kids,” she said. “And I also enjoyed working with the parents.” 

Catechetical sunday
This year, the Church celebrated Catechetical Sunday on Sept. 18 and focused on the theme “Prayer: The Faith Prayed.” 

Those who the community designated to serve as catechists were called forth to be commissioned for their ministry. Catechetical Sunday was a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the role that each person plays, by virtue of Baptism, in handing on the faith and being a witness to the Gospel. Catechetical Sunday was also an opportunity for all to rededicate themselves to this mission as a community of faith. 

“Our Lord’s disciples frequently observed him interrupting his journeys in order to spend long hours alone in prayer to his heavenly Father,” said Archbishop Leonard P. Blair, chairman of Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis. “They were moved to ask Him to teach them how to pray. May we be moved this year to do the same as an essential element of our discipleship. May we all draw closer to the Lord and to one another through a deeper and more faithful commitment to prayer, in private and with others, in communion with the sacramental life of the Church.”