OGDENSBURG - "No pay, but the benefits are out of this world."
Those were the words of the Rev. Terry LaValley, presider and Diocesan administrator at the beginning of his homily, as the Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg commissioned 65 parishioners as pastoral ministers in a Eucharistic Celebration Mass held at St. Mary's Cathedral Sept. 12.
Formation for Ministry courses were held the last two years at two regional sites: St. Phillip Neri Church in Westport and Church of the Visitation in Norfolk. Candidates attended courses in eight-week segments, once per week. The required courses included the Old Testament, New Testament, Church, Spirituality, Christology, the Sacraments, Moral Theology and Social Justice.
"There is an academic component and pastoral training through workshops for mentoring and spiritual formation," said Heidi Macko, who directs the program. "Our goal is to bring them into a deeper relationship with Christ and then to go out and minister to others. They'll serve in a wide variety of capacities within their parishes."
The newly-commissioned ministers will assist their pastors in all phases of parish life. A minimum commitment of two years service is required, although most are already considered very active in their parishes and many will look to continue their formation training even further.
With the average age of a priest in the Diocese now 60 years old, the church is faced with a dwindling number to serve 105 parishes and more than 100,000 Catholics in the North Country. The 14-year-old formation program has seen more than 800 individuals go through the course to provide assistance to their parish families.
A pilot program is being launched this fall to offer the formation classes at a satellite location in Tupper Lake, where classes will be seen interactively as broadcasted from Holy Angels Church Hall in Altona. The formation course is also being offered at the Immaculate Conception Church in Brownville.
Interested parties should call the Diocese office at 1-315-393-2920 for more information.