Local Catholics learn to put faith into action

| Bridget Ryder for The Catholic Spirit | May 21, 2014 | 0 Comments

Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute shapes leaders, disciples

Archbishop Emeritus Harry Flynn, right, congratulates Arturo Urbina after the graduation ceremony for the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute May 13 at the St. Paul Seminary. Urbina, a member of Risen Savior in Burnsville, was one of 152 graduates to receive certificates from Archbishop Flynn during the ceremony.  Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Archbishop Emeritus Harry Flynn, right, congratulates Arturo Urbina after the graduation ceremony for the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute May 13 at the St. Paul Seminary. Urbina, a member of Risen Savior in Burnsville, was one of 152 graduates to receive certificates from Archbishop Flynn during the ceremony. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

When Mark Joerger of St. Joseph in West St. Paul addressed his fellow graduates in a commencement speech for the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute on May 13, he told them it was “game time” — time to let the light of their faith shine for others.

“You’re on fire. You want to go. You just want to run a marathon, a marathon of sharing your faith,” Joerger said.

Joerger was one of 152 graduates in the class of St. Kateri Tekakwitha. Started five years ago, the Catechetical Institute is a two-year program that takes students through the Catechism of the Catholic Church in four, 11-week modules based on the four sections of the Catechism — the Creed, prayer, the sacraments and morality. Each class meets weekly for lectures and small group discussions, as well as eight Saturdays for formation.

The Catechectical Institute is a program of the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity. Kelly Wahlquist, program manager for the institute, sees its unique effects.

“So often when people are looking to grow in their knowledge of the faith, they’ll go through a program, listen to a CD set or perhaps go to a conference, and usually when they are finished, they will look for the next program, the next CD set, the next conference, all in an effort to continue to feed their need to go deeper,” Wahlquist said. “What has been inspiring for me is that the graduates of the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute eagerly become the ones who want to actively teach, share and live the faith in order to bring others to Christ.”

Answering the call

CindyCasey

Cindy Casey

Cindy Casey, 60, a parishioner at St. Peter in Forest Lake, graduated a year before Joerger. She retired at age 55, envisioning she and her husband, Chuck, would serve as missionaries in chemotherapy rooms at hospitals. That dream took on a different reality when he was diagnosed with cancer. After Chuck’s death, she attended daily Mass at her parish even though she struggled to believe in the Eucharist.

“I had fallen away and had a conversion experience,” she said. “I remained Catholic, but my family is evangelical, and I had adopted some of their way of thinking, that it’s symbolic. I had been praying as I went up to Communion, ‘Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.’”

At the same time, she felt she had lost not only her husband, but also her vocation as a married woman, and she sensed the Lord calling her to something new that she couldn’t articulate. Her pastor, Father Don DeGrood, suggested she enroll in the Catechetical Institute. There, she found the answers to her questions.

“I felt the Lord calling me to not date, not marry, but for Him to be my beloved. One of first things I read about in the first pillar is consecrated virgins and consecrated widows. All of a sudden, I had a name for what I felt he was calling me to,” Casey said.

Through her study, the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist also became real to her. She also informally consecrated her life as a widow to God. Since graduating from the Catechetical Institute, she has been sharing her faith as a small-group leader for NET Ministries and as a co-coordinator for the widow/widowers ministry at her parish.

“After I graduated, I felt like the Lord had some ministry for me, and I assumed it was going to be a ministry to widows,” Casey said. “I was surprised when one of the women asked if I would be part of a formation team for NET,” she said.

The call to minister to her fellow widows came just a few months ago when she was asked to help start the new ministry at her parish.

“Through the knowledge I have gotten of God, I have started to see myself the way God sees me and have started to see the gifts he has given me. I have more of the confidence to use the gifts and say yes,” she said.

Just days after graduation, Joerger, who is already involved in St. Paul’s Outreach and other ministries, is still discerning new outlets for his zeal in daily life.

“It’s trying to discern, what do you do going forward? How do I integrate my faith more into my work life?” he said.

Register onlineVisit cistudent.com to register for the next session of the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute (fall 2014 to spring 2016).

Advocates for the Church

The integration of a deeper faith can take many forms. Father Mike Skluzacek, pastor of St. John the Baptist in New Brighton, has 44 graduates from the Catechetical Institute in his parish, and 15 parishioners currently in the program. Whether they take on leadership roles or use their formation in their families, he sees how the rising tide of the graduates’ faith lifts the entire parish.

“They have a deeper spiritual life. They are more committed Catholics, more committed parishioners,” Father Skluzacek said. “I used to think from the start this would be a good way to get more volunteers in the parish. I guess that’s a side benefit. I’m starting to see the Catechetical Institute’s graduates as just having a real effect on the rest of the parish in that they bring to whatever they’re involved in a deeper understanding and appreciation of the faith.”

Father Skluzacek has also observed that not only are they better able to articulate the Church’s teachings and advocate for them in society, but they also are compassionate.

“I’ve seen them have a specific zeal for making newcomers feel welcome and getting them involved in the life of parish,” he said. “I see them reaching out to people who are hurting in various ways. It’s not just a head faith they have, they are able to apply it.”

And for Casey, her formation at the Catechetical Institute also inspired a schedule of early morning Scripture reading and meditation.

“I can’t wait to get up in the morning; I was never a morning person,” she said.

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