(Editor’s Note: The following is a Question and Answers column which Father Joseph Wahl, CO, director of the Diocesan Institute for Parish Leadership Development, recently distributed to priests, pastoral administrators and associates.)
Q. What is the purpose of the Diocesan Institute for Parish Leadership Development?
A. The title is pretty lengthy. But it well describes the purpose. It is a diocesan wide program. It is directed toward those currently in parish leadership positions. The curriculum attempts to pursue the vision of the church articulated in the Synod of Charleston. It lists the challenges before us. It hopes to help us all to sharpen the pastoral skills needed for parish leadership.
Q. Who is being asked to participate?
A. Those currently in parish leadership, such as priests, deacons, pastoral administrators and associates, and our lay brothers and sisters. Likely candidates would be men and women who serve on parish and finance councils, DRE’s, youth ministers, worship committee leaders, secretaries, bookkeepers, etc. It is not at this time a program to serve all parishioners.
Q. How will the learning sessions take place?
A. The dream of the first year offerings of the Institute are for parish priests, deacons, pastoral administrators and associates to attend the learning sessions along with the lay leaders named in the previous paragraph. All will learn together. There would be some spin-off benefits besides learning together. The ride to the learning site, the working together on community building assignments, praying together even stopping for coffee on the way home can help ordained and non-ordained to bond more closely.
Q. What will be studied?
A. Striving to be better disciples of Christ. With a sense of shared mission, using a collaborative model of learning in the hope of building community by exploring how to use gifts in service to God and the People of God. Striving to ensure that each parish/institution in the diocese is truly a center for prayer and worship, Christian formation, evangelization and reconciliation, the social teaching of the church, stewardship and community building.
Q. What kind of time commitment is the Institute asking?
A. To date only a one-year curriculum is in place. So as not to make the learning sessions burdensome, for just 20 weeks of the calendar year the Institute classes will be in session. The weeks to be selected allow for breaks at busy liturgical seasons, holidays and summer. An effort to be “realistic” has been made.
Q. So it is a one-year program?
A. Initially that is correct. But a second and third year is envisioned but not yet fully determined. Subsequent years would flesh out what was introduced the first year. Also, subsequent years could be the forum for looking at new models alluded to at the Convocation of Priests. An evaluation of the first year would be most helpful in determining what will follow. The curriculum design is flexible. We will want to see what needs arise and then attempt to meet them.
Q. Is this a certificate program?
A. Yes. We are still working out the details. Those completing the first year program will receive a Parish Leader Certificate. More advanced participation in subsequent years would be recognized with certificates of advanced learning.
Q. Where would the learning sessions be held?
A. The Institute is called “A University Without Walls.” There is no one central location. Our hope is to have many learning centers so no one will have to travel too far. This is contingent on how many faculty members and class sites we have. The same material would be covered in each learning session site. Each group could select the day for class which best suits them. Parish halls, family life centers, school classrooms are likely sites for the learning sessions. The gathering in the cluster is one option under consideration.
Q. Will there be tuition?
A. Yes. Much of the cost will be covered by the budget of the Institute. Grant money for scholarships is being sought. The entire first-year tuition for all 20 sessions will be $200 per participant. Tuition income will be used partially to provide a moderate stipend to the faculty who will spend hours in preparation, and facilitate each learning session. The balance of the tuition will help with operating expenses, stocking nine resource centers and other related expenses. It is anticipated many Institute participants will be able to afford their own tuition as a return for what they will receive. However, some parishes might judge that they will cover the tuition costs as an investment in parish leadership. The people will come home, hopefully, better leaders desirous of serving the parish. No one will be denied participation for lack of funds. Scholarships will be made available where real need exists with no embarrassment to anyone.
Q. What are the Resource Centers?
A. There are nine designated resource centers. Parishes located on various parts of the diocese have generously offered space. Our hope is to have volunteer workers available at each resource center to facilitate access to resource materials. Each will be stocked with reference works to supplement the content of the learning sessions. There will be found books, videos and audio tapes on pastoral issues. They will be located at the following places:
•Cathedral Center — Charleston
•St.Thomas the Apostle — North Charleston
•St. Peter’s — Beaufort
•St. Andrew’s — Myrtle Beach
•St. Jude’s — Sumter
•St. Martin de Porres — Columbia
•St. Mary Help of Christians — Aiken
•The Oratory — Rock Hill
•St. Mary’s — Greenville
In addition to these nine the Institute has been welcomed to use existing libraries at Our Lady of Mepkin Abbey and Our Lady of Mercy Motherhouse.