There are many graced moments in our work, but occasionally I am so overwhelmed by our experience that it takes my breath away. Early April took my breath away. The request for several Lenten spiritual formation events in the Diocese of Salt Lake City was met by the Congar Institute sending Sr.Ruth Bolarte, IHM and me. At the same time that I was directing a day of prayer in English for about 150 participants, Sr. Ruth was in another building on the same campus doing the same thing for the same number of Spanish-speaking people. At lunch time, 300 voices came together to sing the grace before our shared meal: Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow/Alabado Sea Dios!
Sr. Ruth and I both focused on the Year of Faith and the call to a new evangelization during the day of prayer, which is the same evangelization, but for a new time. Both groups came together again for the celebration of the Eucharist at the end.
Sr. Ruth commented: “What a privilege to share our faith experience with the Hispanic people of Salt Lake City! It was my first time visiting this area in the United States. I now have an inkling of what it means to be a Catholic in an area where Catholics are a minority. The steadfastness and spirit of commitment to the Church in this area are evident as I listened to some of the participants. Many had travelled as much as five hours to be part of this Lenten retreat. Through their enthusiasm and eagerness to deepen their faith to better minister the People of God, truly, the Hispanic Community is a blessing to the Church of Salt Lake City.”
The grace did not end there for me. After Mass, I was taken to dinner and then to the airport to catch a flight to St. George, UT to repeat the day of prayer the next day for the catechists of the region who have been involved in a formation process over the year, assisted by several Resource Persons from the Congar Institute. Those 30 catechists were joined by about 100 other parishioners from the region and we had an excellent day of prayer.
Again, following the retreat, I was taken to dinner and then to the airport to return to Salt Lake City to repeat the day of prayer a third time for a gathering of the Catholic School Principals of the Diocese. There were about 18 principals present.
The Congar Institute assist the Diocese of Salt Lake City in providing spiritual formation events like these because it is part of a larger strategy of lay leadership formation. First, all that we do has as its theological background the universal call to all the baptized to be, as Benedict XVI put it, “co-responsible for the church’s being and activity.” He based this observation on the teachings of Vatican II, and we are proud to point out that they can be traced back to the work of our namesake, fr. Yves Congar, OP. The Year of Faith and the focus on the New Evangelization provide an especially rich opportunity to raise awareness of this message among all Catholics. Therefore, these spiritual formation events serve the dual purpose of continuing the formation for lay leaders in the Church in Utah, whether they are Catholic School principals or catechists in St. George, or participants in the English- and Spanish-speaking lay ecclesial ministry formation programs.
Particularly for those practicing ministry, such events offer vision, encouragement, and nourishment for their ministry. For the broader participants, these events help to develop a culture of shared responsibility for the mission of the church in Utah. It makes ordinary Catholics who attend these events more aware of their baptismal call and it may begin to help them discern their own call to leadership in the Diocese. This eventually encourages some to consider entering formation for ministry and provides a continuing means for increasing the excellence of ministry throughout the diocese. That, after all, is our mission at the Congar Institute for Ministry Development.
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