By PAUL A. BARRA
WHITE OAK – Youth ministers and catechetical leaders from throughout the Diocese of Charleston began training for their advanced certificates on Sept. 10–12 at the South Carolina Baptist Convention’s White Oak Conference Center. It was the first of a four-part series planned jointly by the diocesan Office of Youth Ministry and the Office of Catechesis, Initiation and Evangelization.
With just a weekend to cover Hebrew Scriptures, Christian Scriptures and Christology, however, it was an intense few days.
“It’s a lot to absorb, but it will give us something to take back and use in our youth ministry,” said Sheri Felder of St. Martin de Porres in Columbia.
Father David Valtierra, an Oratorian who is famous for his biblical teaching, presented the weekend. He kept the information flowing both days, weaving in stories and developing the many layers of meaning in representative readings. Each participant reflected on the readings and came up with his or her own interpretations of what the word means to us. Father Valtierra probed, cajoled and questioned. In the end, he seemed pleased with the response of the parish leaders.
“It’s good to see people getting excited about this,” the theologian said after Felder started waving her hand and exclaiming aloud as a light bulb went off in her head. That kind of excitement leads to knowledge and skills – and that is precisely what the diocese wants from the series.
“This is a portion of a track for catechetical leaders and youth ministers,” said Paul Schroeder, director of the catechesis office. “It’s an effort by the Diocese of Charleston, part of a long-term effort, to get our people certified.”
The long-term effort also includes courses taught at the Institute for Parish Development and is designed to enhance the educational background of church leaders who do not have access to Catholic colleges. Mostly it’s for parish leaders who are beginning their ministries. Schroeder called the Friday evening through Sunday morning sessions “doable”; he praised the parishes that paid the $80 cost for their leaders. He also praised the participants.
“This takes a tremendous amount of time over one weekend. It hasn’t been easy, since Father David has tried to give an overview of the Old and New Testaments in two days. By the time we cover Christology on Sunday morning and finish with him presiding over a liturgy at noon, we will have had a busy time,” the diocesan director said on Saturday afternoon. “One participant told me that she hadn’t done this kind of learning since high school. She said it was a beautiful opportunity to grow in her faith.”
Felder’s colleague at St. Martin’s, Kishinda Hurse, found the hard work gratifying.
“We’re trying to keep our youth informed and Father David not only tells you about the readings, he explains them,” the youth minister said. “It’s good of the diocese to offer something like this; it gives us a chance to network with other (parish leaders).”
The weekend series will teach theology, teachings of the Church, parish leadership skills, spirituality, social concerns, moral issues, Vatican II, the sacraments, liturgy, evangelization, ecclesiology and ministry to adolescents at future weekend sessions. A parish minister does not have to attend all four, although that is ideal, according to Schroeder.
The next parts of the series will be in December, March and May. All will be from Friday evening until Sunday midday at White Oak (about half an hour from Columbia).