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July 5, 2009

S. Side parish feels gifted with grads of lay ministry program

By Hilary Anderson


Father Peter Campos found five very active women parishioners when he became pastor of St. Kevin, 105th Street and Torrence Avenue, two years ago.

He attributed their involvement to longtime friendships. Much to his surprise, Campos discovered the women barely knew each other before they attended Called and Gifted, an archdiocesan lay ministry program

“I was amazed to find it wasn’t until they entered the program that their close friendships began,” Campos said. “They’re now involved in every aspect of parish life possible: eucharistic ministers, lectors, ministers of care and committee members for various parish events and fund-raisers. One coordinates our religious education program. It is such a blessing to have them.”

It was their level of involvement that prompted Campos to send more parishioners to the program.

“When I saw how the program affected these women, I realized that it must be something good for all of us in the parish and decided to make the commitment,” he said.

Called and Gifted traces its roots to the call from Vatican II for an increased lay ministry. The late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin laid the groundwork for the program, which now is entering its third decade of training lay ministers for parish leadership roles.

Called and Gifted is a two-year program with three components. The first is academics. Students study Scripture, catechism, church history, Christology and peace and justice among other topics. They attend two-hour classes once a week for the first year. Three sites are available to prospective students: St. Xavier University, Gordon Tech High School and Mundelein Seminary.

“These are college-level courses but there are no tests or research papers,” said Society of the Holy Child Jesus Sister Peg Scholle, associate director of archdiocesan lay formation programs. “But we do ask students to write reflection papers on what they’ve read.”

The second component is formation. Students from all sites meet once a month at Mundelein.

“In our formation classes, students develop their own personal spirituality and look at the qualities they need to be a lay minister,” Scholle said.

The third component is community. “Students come with deep beliefs and strong values,” said Scholle. “They find a group of people who speak their language and become transformed.”

The program is open to those who already are doing volunteer ministry within their parish.

St. Kevin parishioner Fran Gutierrez was among the early graduates of the program. She now serves in RCIA, as a lector, eucharistic minister, in the baptism preparation program and on the parish and finance councils.

“It was a great commitment but it broadened my church life and my life in general,” Gutierrez said. “You pick up ideas from others.”

Dorothy Spencer, another St. Kevin parishioner, is a more recent participant. The parish has sent about 25 people to the program.

“It took two years for me to decide to do it,” said Spencer. “One day I woke and told myself I had to participate. I am happy to have made that decision.”