In 1986, after a year of reflection, priests of the Diocese of Ogdensburg met at Lake Placid with Bishop Stanislaus J. Brzana to recommend priorities for the future of the Church in the North Country. Priorities included the promotion of ecclesiastical vocations as well as training lay ministers.
Bishop Brzana appointed a diocesan planning committee which met during a two year period and provided for parish meetings and regional gatherings. People who attended those sessions asked for classes geared to adult learning and participation so they could convey the Church’s teaching well. They also requested training for parish pastoral work. In the fall of 1988, the planning committee recommended the establishment of a Lay Ministry Training Program for the diocese.
Formation For Ministry has evolved as a program to support men and women who are called to minister. Formation For Ministry is a prerequisite for those who wish to apply for the Permanent Diaconate Formation Program. Since 1990, the lives of hundreds of men and women have been enriched for ministry in their parishes.
Formal classes began in January 1990 at St. James Church in Gouverneur. Since then, classes have met in Altona, Black River, Brownville, Carthage, Chateaugay, Ellenburg, Lake Placid, Malone, Massena. Morrisonville, Ogdensburg, Norfolk, Peru, Plattsburgh, Port Leyden, Potsdam, Treadwells Mill, Tupper Lake, Watertown, and Westport.
For two years, people throughout the diocese attend weekly classes in Scripture, Theology, and Spirituality. They participate in workshops designed for their specialized areas of ministry: Worship, Sick and Elderly, Family, Youth, Scouting, Parish Social Outreach, Adult Faith Facilitator, Catechetical Leader , RCIA, and Catechist. Participants also have the experience of annual weekend retreats on the themes pertinent to today’s Catholic Faith.
At the end of their two-year classes, the men and women reflect upon their job descriptions within their respective parishes. They share their insights and reflections about their ministry experience with their pastor/administrator or parish supervisor as a way to better serve in the parish. After all the requirements have been met, A Eucharistic Liturgy for the Blessing and Commissioning of Pastoral Ministers, with the Bishop presiding, is held. At the commissioning, the Bishop presents each candidate with their certificate and lay ministry pin.
Through the encouragement of our bishop, the Bishop’s Fund and the parish support of Formation For Ministry, the program continues and expands throughout the diocese. Two new sites are selected for each two-year term based on the general geographic location of the applicants.
We encourage the pastors/administrators, deacons and previously commissioned lay ministers to extend an invitation to consider the Formation for Ministry process to anyone who may be interested in service to their parish. Working closely with the pastor during the discernment process, interested persons will quickly discover that involvement as a commissioned lay minister will provide a wonderful opportunity to rekindle their baptismal responsibilities to serve in their parishes.