The following is an interview by The New Catholic Miscellany with Oratorian Father Joseph A. Wahl, director of the diocesan Institute for Parish Leadership Development, regarding plans for the start of classes in early September.
TNCM: What is happening this summer at the Institute?
FW: We are busy getting ready for Course Two, which begins Sept. 7. In June, we sent to each pastor and pastoral administrator six copies of the Course Two program to distribute to the leaders in the parish. We have confirmed the use of 13 classroom sites and are lining up our presenters/teachers. Lesson plans are being prepared, and registration is underway.
TNCM: Who are the people the Institute is intended to serve?
FW: Our name “Institute for Parish Leadership Development” is the clue. We are attempting to reach those who help in the parish serving as director of religious education, youth ministers, worship committees, members of the parish council and finance council, etc. — oh yes, the parish priest and pastoral administrators, too. Our goal is to help provide an experience of the Church learning, the Church in action and to help build community.
TNCM: How does the Institute assist each parish?
FW: The Institute’s Courses One and Two deal with issues that impact the life of the parish. We share the vision of the Church at the Second Vatican Council. Last year in Course One, we updated participants on developments in such areas of Church life as prayer, worship, evangelization, Christian formation, social teachings, and stewardship. This year we focus on Ministry: Lay and Ordained, communication, collaboration, women in the Church, ecumenism, family life, multiculturalism and diversity in South Carolina. Course One is not a requirement for Course Two; the two courses rotate each year.
TNCM: What format does the Institute use?
FW: Classes run from September to February. Participants go to the classroom site nearest to where they live. Our parishes have generously donated space for the 13 sites throughout the four deaneries. Classes are held from 7-9:15 p.m. Each group meets on a set day of the week, i.e. Monday-Thursday. We use an adult learning model, that is, the presenter does not lecture for two hours but involves the participants in discussion. Add prayer, breaks, refreshments and in the course of six months participants form a community while they deepen their knowledge of the Church and sharpen their leadership skills.
TNCM: How did Course One go?
FW: It was evaluated fully by teachers and participants and received high scores by the 200 students. Through the evaluation process we learned how to improve Course Two.
TNCM: If a parishioner in a leadership role is interested in becoming a participant, what steps are needed to register?
FW: The “Program for Course Two: Emerging Church in South Carolina” has all the necessary information. For a copy ask your pastor or write to the Institute Office at 1662 Ingram Road, Charleston, SC 29407, call us at (843) 402-9115 Ext. 20 or 35, or fax us at (843) 402-9071. Talking over your desire to take the class with your pastor or administrator will help foster better communication within the parish.
TNCM: Is there anything else you would like potential participants to know or do?
FW: Please register soon. As summer is a time for vacation, we usually don’t think about programs like this until children return to school. But since classes kick off on Sept. 7, we need as many to register as early as possible so we can place each one in a convenient site. There are a limited number of spaces available, and we work on a “first come, first served” basis.
Finally, I ask for the prayers of all. The Institute is attempting to form leaders to build up the Body of Christ. Your prayers that God will provide participants and teachers are appreciated.