August 20, 2010

Catholic Education Outreach / G. Joseph Peters

Catholic school and faith formation commission training

The archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education (OCE) believes that lay governance bodies are important to the future success of our elementary schools and parish faith formation programs. Therefore, each September, OCE leads a major effort to provide quality regional in-service training to ensure the effective and appropriate operation of Catholic school and faith formation commissions.

“Preparing Your Parish for the New Millennium,” a guide for parish pastoral councils, was introduced in 1997. This called for a new parish governance structure in which separate Catholic school and faith formation commissions would be established under pastoral councils. Formerly, “Boards of Total Catholic Education” served both schools and faith formation programs. Some of these boards were related to the pastoral council. Others were not.

Now, a decade into the new millennium, separate school and faith formation commissions are well-established in nearly all archdiocesan parishes. There is no one person in OCE assigned to service commissions so the entire “field staff” is experienced in presenting the training, which is provided by teams of two staff members. The training is always offered in at least four locations—five this year—throughout the archdiocese. All commission members are invited, but the training is considered crucial for new administrators and members so that they fully understand the difference between this type of governance body and other boards or commissions outside the Church.

This year, the workshop locations are as follows:

  • Sept. 1, 7-9 p.m., Archbishop O’Meara Catholic Center, Indianapolis.
  • Sept. 8, 7-9 p.m., Most Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish, Jeffersonville.
  • Sept. 15, 7-9 p.m., St. Gabriel School, Connersville.
  • Sept. 22, 7-9 p.m., Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish, Greenwood.

There will also be a special session from 6:30-9 p.m. on Sept 29 at a place yet to be announced for the 16 schools involved in the “Strategic Management and Development Project for Selected Elementary Schools.” This session will address some specific needs of these commissions in implementing the program.

More detailed information about the workshops can be found on OCE’s Web site at, Public Downloads, Miscellaneous, 2010 Commission Trainings. No registration is required, and attending in parish groups is encouraged.

The workshop content is focused on “The Catholic School and Faith Formation Guide,” which is given to all participants. The guide is also available free online at, Public Downloads, Guides.

Workshop participants will learn about commission structure, operational guidelines, tips for successful commissions and resources that are available for commissions. These workshops are not for high school boards, which are structured differently.

Also covered this year will be the implications of civil incorporation of parishes. This past summer, all the parishes in the archdiocese were incorporated under Indiana civil law. The major effect of this restructuring is to have canon law—Church law—recognized under civil law. While there are a few new operating procedures due to the restructuring, the training will emphasize that there are no major changes in the way parishes operate or in the way the lay governance bodies function from day to day.

Good planning is at the heart of effective commissions. The major responsibilities of commissions include strategic planning, monitoring of plans, policy formulation, and communication about plans and policies. Excellent planning processes are in place for both types of commissions. For school commissions, the “Pillars Planning Process” details specific roles for the school administration and the commission in educational and institutional planning, respectively. “Choosing Paths on the Journey” is the planning process for faith formation commissions. It provides a facilitated retreat process developed specifically for religious education planning.

There will be major revisions to the “Catholic Schools and Faith Formation Guide” during this program year. One of the major changes will be to provide guidance for youth ministry commissions or committees within parishes, which are becoming more prevalent in the archdiocese.

(G. Joseph Peters is the archdiocesan associate executive director for Catholic Education.)

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