By Sarah Mac Donald - 27 May, 2016
The Diocese of Elphin is to introduce Volunteer Catechists for the first time and is ready to start recruiting trainees in the autumn.
This new role will see lay people commissioned as leaders of faith-based education programmes in partnership with priests and parish communities.
Announcing the new venture, Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin said the time had come to establish the ministry of catechist as part of the life of every parish community in the diocese.
The volunteer catechists will nourish the faith of those who are already active in their local Christian Community; fan the flame of faith in those who are baptised but have drifted away from the practice of their faith, and proclaim the good news to those living among us for whom Christ and the Church remain unknown or unfamiliar, the Bishop explained.
Normally, the role is a voluntary one where the person commits initially for five years to giving two to four hours of their time per week to organising and delivering various faith related programmes and opportunities.
The training programme is part-time and spread over four years.
The first year is a preliminary year where the successful applicants participate in a number of exploratory weekends.
Over the next three years, the candidates will be offered an integrated programme of spiritual formation, personal development and formal studies leading to an accredited Diploma in Lifelong Religious Education (NQF Level 8).
Alongside this, they will participate in relevant placements. The diocese will bear the cost for successful applicants.
Colette Furlong, Catechist in the Sligo Cluster Parishes, welcomed the initiative.
“It provides that missing link between the ideal of lay involvement in pastoral and catechetical outreach in the diocese and the theological grounding needed to do so effectively.”
She continued, “The thought that we might have a number of lay adults not just willing to be involved in an initiative like outreach to parents of Confirmation children, or parents preparing to have a child baptised for example, but pastorally and theologically equipped for the ministry, revives that vision. This is so welcome and so broadens our pastoral and catechetical options for the future.”
Programme director, Rev Dr Michael Duignan, compared the introduction of the new venture in lay ministry with the introduction of permanent deacons some years ago and described it as another “very welcome and exciting development” in Elphin.
“It will offer people who wish to grow in knowledge of their own faith and share that knowledge in a dynamic way with others a real and recognised opportunity to do so in partnership with the Bishop, priests and parishioners.”
In an information booklet entitled Partners in the Gospel, Bishop Doran explains how “Even for people who believe in Jesus Christ, Faith is not thought of as ‘good news’. This may have something to do with the fact that, while much good work is going on in our parishes, our focus tends to be more on religious practice than on a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. If we want something to change, then we have to do something different.”
The closing date for applications is 5pm on Friday 16 September 2016. For further information see www.elphindiocese.ie