New Certified Lay Ecclesial Ministry formation program
From the Office of Faith Formation
The formation of lay ecclesial ministers has a long and important history in the Diocese of Rapid City. The original program was created in the 1970s by Fr. John Hatcher and the Jesuits in order to help better form those ministering the Church at the time. Since that time, hundreds of the diocesan faithful have gone through this formation program, and the service of those lay ecclesial ministers throughout the years has been fundamental for the growth of our local Church.
Both their initial and ongoing formation is “something that the Church takes very seriously,” said Bishop Peter Muhich, who called for the renewal of this formation program shortly after he began his episcopal ministry in this diocese. In his letter rolling out the new program to the current lay ecclesial ministers, Bishop Muhich quoted St. John Paul II: “To set high standards means both to provide thorough basic training and to keep it constantly updated. This is a fundamental duty in order to ensure qualified personnel for the Church’s mission.” The most recent foundational document to guide lay ministry formation in the Church in the United States is the USCCB’s document “Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord,” published in 2005.
Bishop Muhich asked Sr. Sara Kowal, SCTJM, director of Faith Formation, and Deacon Greg Sass, the Lay Ministry Program director, to restructure both the initial and ongoing formation for the lay ministers of the diocese. The initial introduction of the new program was given to the current certified lay ministers of the diocese this month.
The original lay ministry formation program was a three-year program in total, and the new program will be the same length of time. During the first year, candidates will participate in the diocesan Cor ad Cor spirituality program. This program is essentially an Ignatian “retreat” stretched out over a year’s length of time. Participants of the program meet weekly and commit to 20 minutes of daily prayer. The primary goal of the first year is for candidates to grow and deepen their prayer and spiritual lives.
During the second year of the formation program, candidates will participate in the Veritatis Splendor Institute (VSI) Basic Certification program. During this year, candidates meet monthly and attend classes in order to gain a solid foundation of the truths of the Catholic faith. They also attend monthly small groups and a yearly retreat. During the final year of the formation program, candidates will participate in a new Pastoral Formation Year, which will take place monthly at Terra Sancta Retreat Center. During this year, candidates will receive formation on various aspects of pastoral ministry and growth in human formation, all of which will prepare them to more effectively minister in their local parishes. During this final year, they will also participate in a mentored, hands-on pastoral assignment in their local parish community.
After certification, certified lay ecclesial ministers will be required to complete 12 hours of yearly formation in order to retain their active status.
To participate in the new Certified Lay Ecclesial Ministry (CLEM) program, candidates must be invited and recommended by their pastors. The program is oriented towards those who serve the Church in various leadership capacities. Pastors can begin gathering cohorts in their parishes this year, by encouraging possible candidates to go through the Cor ad Cor program together. By the fall of 2025, the inaugural year of the Pastoral Formation year (year #3) will begin.
“In general, there is much excitement surrounding the new program and the fruits it will bear for our local diocesan Church into the future. We ask our diocesan faithful to keep the development of the new program and its candidates in their prayers. For those interested in participating in the new program, they should reach out to their pastors,” said Sr. Sara.