A Story of Three Entities
Brief Background on the Home Missions Leadership Conference (HMLC)

In 2000/01, Fr. Wil Steinbacher of the Glenmary Research Center and Drs. David Byers and David Suley of the USCCB Secretariat for Home Missions discussed possibilities for future collaboration in serving the home missions. They invited together leaders of religious communities with a long-standing corporate commitment to the home missions (or related charism) to broaden the conversation. Twenty-three invitations were sent and 12 groups responded, meeting in October, 2001 in Nashville, TN. Participants were deeply moved as each shared his or her community's charism. A consensus emerged that there is a great deal of convergence in the commitment of each group where collaboration might arise. Through facilitated discussion, one of two areas the group focused on where collaboration seemed most desirable was the development of lay leadership. A subcommittee was formed to explore this concern.

While studying the realities and exploring the possibilities in this area, the group focused on an initiative undertaken by the Dominicans of the Southern Province, now called the Congar Institute for Ministry Development. Envisioned as a response to "dioceses lacking in resources for lay ecclesial ministry formation," it is obvious that the home missions are among the neediest in this area. It was recognized that the Dominican initiative can provide an administrative structure for a collaborative effort specifically targeted to the home missions (or under-served regions).

History of the Congar Institute for Ministry Development.

The 2002 Provincial Chapter of the Southern Dominican Province considered a proposal from the province's Intellectual Life Commission summarized as follows: Due to a massive shift in responsibility for ministry in the Catholic Church from priests and religious to lay persons, there is a need for formation of these new lay ministers. There are programs that address this need, but the need is growing faster than the response, especially in mission terrtitories with historically fewer resources. With a focused effort, the Southern Province Dominicans, because of the Dominican charism and in collaboration with other groups and institutions, should be on the forefront of the response to this challenge.

Out of this proposal, the 2002 Southern Dominican Provincial Chapter ordained the following: A new Institute will be formed, with a mission statement and organizational structure that would

become a planning and delivery site for pastoral catechesis and evangelization. This administrative center, which would broker a Province sponsored, itinerant response to the theological and pastoral formation needs of lay leaders and others in the Church of the South, would assist dioceses in their fundamental mission of forming leaders to serve in their local churches.

The Institute is housed in offices located at the Oblate School of Theology. Wayne Cavalier, O.P. was designated the director of the Institute to begin implementation of the above in the Fall of 2005. However, since 2002, Wayne has been in conversation with the members of the Home Missions Leadership Conference about collaborating in our efforts to assist underserved dioceses with lay ecclesial ministry formation.

At the October, 2004 meeting of the Home Missions Leadership Conference, the 7 groups with representatives in attendance agreed to take the following formal proposal to their leadership for a decision:

Overview of the Home Missions Leadership Conference Collaborative Proposal

In response to the growing need for solidly educated and well-prepared lay ecclesial ministers from and for the home missions, we propose that religious communities with a concern for the home missions collaborate in a new initiative to assist home mission dioceses in their efforts to develop lay leadership in ministry. The initiative will be addressed to (1) professional level formation and (2) the preparation of those responsible for the training and education of lay ecclesial ministers at other levels. Special emphasis will be given to the rural and multi-cultural contexts of the home missions. Our collaboration will provide one administrative entity mutually supported by the sponsoring institutions. In this way, the pooled resources of the sponsoring institutions (and other collaborators) will be efficiently applied to the ministry formation needs of participating home mission dioceses. The goal is to provide each diocese with a flexible, tailored, sustainable, and complementary effort not otherwise available to them.

This effort will include working with local diocesan leadership to assess what is already being offered, co-develop structures and programs specific to the needs of the home mission diocese or region that will complement and augment what is already being offered, and deliver these resources on-site to the diocese or region as needed. Sponsoring and collaborating groups will provide personnel and other resources on an as-needed basis depending on their availability. A goal is to use technological means to assist increasing numbers of dioceses without increasing demand on education and formation personnel. Emphasis will be placed on bringing together as many local, regional, and national resources as feasible to foster the best possible lay ecclesial ministry formation responsive to the specific needs of underserved/home mission dioceses.

The Collaborative Project will be called "Developing Lay Ecclesial Ministry for the U.S. Missions" and will be administered through the Congar Institute for Ministry Development. It is governed by a Board composed of Dominican friars of the Southern Dominican Province and representatives of the Home Missions Leadership Conference.


285 Oblate Drive
San Antonio, TX 78216-6693
Email: congarinstitute@ost.edu
Phone: 210-341-1366 Ext. 269
Fax: 210-341-4519

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