June 5, 2015

Grads of Intercultural Pastoral Formation Institute are eager to help others grow in their lives of faith

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin presents an Intercultural Pastoral Formation Institute graduation certificate to Mynelle Gardner of Holy Angels Parish in Indianapolis on May 16 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. Also pictured is Hollis Thomas, a member of St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis, who also graduated from the Father Boniface Hardin Program for black Catholics. (Photo by Mike Krokos)

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin presents an Intercultural Pastoral Formation Institute graduation certificate to Mynelle Gardner of Holy Angels Parish in Indianapolis on May 16 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. Also pictured is Hollis Thomas, a member of St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis, who also graduated from the Father Boniface Hardin Program for black Catholics. (Photo by Mike Krokos)

By Mike Krokos

Laurence Saw knows firsthand what it’s like being a stranger in a new land.

He and his family moved to Indiana from Burma (now known as Myanmar) in 2005, and they faced various challenges, including finding a faith home.

“It was not easy for us to find a [Catholic] church, even though you can see a church in any direction you can think of—especially in the Indianapolis area,” he said.

Because they were unfamiliar with their new surroundings, Saw and his family attended a Baptist church, a Methodist church, and other faith traditions before they finally came upon St. Joan of Arc Church in Indianapolis, where they worshipped for several months.

As they moved around the city, they finally registered at St. Pius X Parish, which has been their Church home since 2008.

Saw was among the nearly 60 people who graduated from the archdiocese’s Intercultural Pastoral Formation Institute on May 16 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. The institute includes classes for members of the Burmese community in the Blessed Isidore Ngei Ko Lat Program, classes for members of the Hispanic community in the Hispanic Leadership Program, and classes for black Catholics in the Father Boniface Hardin Program.

The goal of these institutes is to form pastoral and catechetical leaders within the various ethnic communities in the archdiocese, and all three communities were represented at the graduation ceremony. It was the first-ever graduating class for the Burmese and black Catholic communities, and the third graduating class for the Hispanic community.

“We are so grateful to be members of St. Pius [Parish],” Saw said of the 300 members of the Burmese community who worship there. “All the parishioners are very welcoming, and they are adapting to the diversity of the culture.”

The formation program he and other members of the Burmese community were able to complete, Saw noted, “is very important and essential for Catholic fellowship, especially among the refugees and other minority communities in this country.”

In a bilingual homily delivered in both Spanish and English during the Mass, Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin encouraged the graduates to use what they learned to help others grow in their lives of faith, but to continue their formation as well.

“We have to proclaim Christ,” he said, which includes having a personal relationship with him. If we don’t, he said, “we risk making the voice that people hear not the voice of the Good Shepherd, but our own voice.

“We must ask God to be a part of him, to remain a part of him, so that we can bear fruit.”

Teresa Law, a graduating member of the Father Boniface Hardin Program for black Catholics, said the classes gave her insight into black Catholic theology and spirituality.

“… After my studies and ongoing acquisition of knowledge of how to apply what I’ve learned, I would like to help others form a greater awareness of what it means to be Catholic and black and especially to be instrumental in bringing black Catholic people back to the Church,” said Law, a member of St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis.

Franciscan Brother Moises Gutierrez, director of the archdiocesan Office of Intercultural Ministry, said the Pastoral Leadership Program for Hispanics is a two-year program, while the other two—black Catholics and Burmese—are one-year programs.

Brother Moises said there was great energy and enthusiasm for all the classes.

“I believe people are eager to grow and learn. As a matter of fact, many of [these graduates] mentioned that they would like to continue attending classes. They are asking for another program they could attend,” he said. “One of the goals of these programs is to get people excited about learning, and about serving the community and journeying together, carrying out our mission as Christians.”

According to Brother Moises, nearly all of the graduates are already committed to their parishes. “The idea is that they would be trained to be better volunteers, catechists, teachers and evangelizers. In some cases, they start formation programs for leaders in their own parishes as they have done at St. Monica, St. Bartholomew and Holy Spirit parishes.”

One of the priorities of the Church, Brother Moises added, is formation of lay leaders.

“The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has mentioned that over and over. We are responding to this need,” he said. “Pope Francis is asking us [for] the same thing: formation for lay leaders.

“We are the only diocese that has an Intercultural Pastoral Formation Institute that serves all the different ethnic and cultural groups present in the archdiocese. Some dioceses have an institute for Hispanics, but we have an institute for all the Catholics,” he continued. “It is life-giving and refreshing to hear from the graduates how grateful they are because they are learning and growing. There are so many great stories. The common denominator is becoming better lay leaders and better parents. They all concur that these programs have helped them becoming better human beings and better Christians. And that’s the whole purpose of these programs.”

Graduates like Mynelle Gardner of the Father Boniface Hardin Program are eager to plant the seeds of faith with others.

“I’m planning a Mama’s Movement, in helping to rebuild our community, the values in our community,” said Gardner, a longtime member of Holy Angels Parish in Indianapolis, “using Mary as an example, doing it in a way that we find our voice in the community, helping the youth, helping people find their voice, and being a follower of Father Boniface, being a voice for social justice.”
 

(For more information on the archdiocese’s Intercultural Pastoral Formation Institute, contact Franciscan Brother Moises Gutierrez at 317-236-1446, 800-382-9836, ext. 1446, or by e-mail at mgutierrez@archindy.org.)

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