Diocese launches leadership program
One of the biggest challenges in the Church today is engaging Catholics who don't participate in parish life outside the pews. On June 22-23, speakers at a diocesan seminar will teach Church leaders how to build engagement in the changing Church.
The event, the first of its kind, is titled, "The Evolving Local Church: Skills for Evangelizing Leaders." It's part of "Amazing God," a new evangelization and spiritual renewal initiative in the Albany Diocese.
RCL Benziger, a Catholic publishing company, is co-sponsoring the seminar at the Carondelet Hospitality Center in Latham along with the diocesan offices of Evangeliza-tion, Cateche-sis and Family Life and of Pastoral Planning and Ministry Formation.
"This is an exciting opportunity," said Jeanne Schrempf, director of the OECFL. "We hope that people come as teams - a parish team or an office team."
During one session, attendees will take a personality test to discover their strengths and how they relate to areas of ministry.
For instance, if someone's strongest area is empathy, he or she would be great at bereavement ministry, said Dr. Dobie Moser, the leader of the session and the director of youth and young adult ministry and CYO athletics for the Diocese of Cleveland, Ohio.
"A lot of folks don't necessarily know what their gifts are," Dr. Moser explained. Many more "find it to be liberating because it's naming what's already there. It just provides insight and better understanding into how God made us."
He added that denying one's strengths shows "false humility." Using a book, "Living Your Strengths," Dr. Moser will help participants understand how their strengths interact with those of differently-wired people.
Ultimately, he said, the exercise leads to higher levels of engagement: People "feel a sense of belonging; belonging leads to believing."
Dr. Moser used his own strengths as an example: He is an achiever and an activator, someone who likes to get things done and jump into action on tasks.
The downsides to these traits, he said, are acting without thinking and losing sleep. People must be aware of these liabilities, which he calls "shadows," and try to quell them.
Though Dr. Moser aims to attract the 49 percent of churchgoers not engaged in parish life, the strengths could be applied in any situation: marriage, family life, parenting, friendship and more.
At the upcoming seminar, two other sessions will teach parish leaders how to lead during periods of transition, such as when parishes close or merge.
Rev. Louis Cameli, who will facilitate those sessions, knows one way to explain that: the Second Vatican Council, which instituted many changes in the Church in the early 1960s, established that Catholics are the "pilgrim people of God."
"To be on pilgrimages," Father Cameli reasoned, "is to be in movement. To be in movement means you don't always stay in the same place."
From his background as delegate for Christian formation and mission in the Archdiocese of Chicago, Father Cameli will refer to Biblical experiences of faith life, such as those in the Acts of the Apostles. He said that structures need to shift, but there is stability in a community of faith and a fundamental faith in Jesus.
"We're more than a building," he explained. "Change is always difficult, but if we approach it with understanding, it makes a big difference."
Father Cameli has experienced his own share of changes - such as when the church where he was baptized merged with another parish, and when two seminaries he served were reconfigured.
"There are lots of feelings that get stirred up," he admitted. "But, eventually, we have to reckon with this."