October 23, 2015

Deacon heads new secretariat as revised model seeks ‘to serve parishes better’

By Natalie Hoefer

Deacon Michael BraunFor years, the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education (OCE) has worked under a “total education” model, meaning it oversaw not just Catholic schools but also youth ministry, young adult ministry, catechesis and more.

Despite her own dedication to the total education concept, archdiocesan chancellor Annette “Mickey” Lentz found herself wondering if it was still the right model for the archdiocese.

“There wasn’t anything wrong [with the current structure], but was it the best way of doing business today in the 21st century, especially with schools?” she said.

So when a vacancy for the position of OCE executive director arose, archdiocesan leaders asked the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education to perform an audit last December.

“Our instruction to them was to look at the best way to do business in an education office,” Lentz explained. “Their report back to us was, because of the way school demands are today with vouchers, scholarships, accreditation, etc., that OCE should pull out schools and make them a separate Office of Catholic Schools [OCS],” including St. Mary’s Child Center and Catholic Youth Organization.

“We liked that idea, and were already leaning that way,” she said.

Some of the ministries that were under the auspices of the former OCE—particularly catechesis, faith formation and special religious education—made sense to place under the Secretariat of Worship, said Lentz. The department is now called the Secretariat for Worship and Evangelization.

As for the remaining ministries that fell under the former OCE—including Youth Ministry, Young Adult and College Campus Ministry, Intercultural Ministry, Pro-Life and Family Life, Ecumenical Ministry and Lay Ministry—research was done to determine what other dioceses did.

“We looked at different models and found a good number of dioceses have a secretariat or office for pastoral ministry,” said Lentz.

Creating a Secretariat for Pastoral Ministries to work with the Secretariat for Worship and Evangelization and the Office of Catholic Schools made sense to Lentz, the archdiocesan Leadership Team and Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin.

“It’s more efficient, more effective, more collaborative,” she explained. “Our intent is that those three secretariat heads will meet regularly so that all three areas are collaborating on formation and other initiatives, but at the same time there’s someone responsible for the group who serves those particular ministries.”

Father Patrick Beidelman serves as executive director of the Secretariat for Worship and Evangelization, and Gina Fleming serves as superintendent of the Office of Catholic Schools.

In early September, Deacon Michael Braun was hired as director to lead the new Secretariat of Pastoral Ministries.

Deacon Braun had worked for more than two decades for Roche Diagnostics in Indianapolis, most recently as the manager of a production line, when he began work in 2005 on a lay master’s degree in theology at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad.

“After 2009 [when he received the degree], a couple of people told me I should consider becoming a deacon, and I just kept telling them that wasn’t part of the plan.”

Not long after, he did join the archdiocesan permanent diaconate program. He was ordained on June 23, 2012.

While in formation, Deacon Braun retired in 2010 after more than 30 years with Roche. He became pastoral associate at his and his wife Wendy’s home parish of St. Simon the Apostle in Indianapolis, overseeing faith formation, youth ministry and family life.

“It was good to serve in a parish, to be there every day, to be there with the kids [at the parish’s school] and assist at the school Mass each week,” said Deacon Braun. “It was very rewarding.”

His background in management, theology and parish pastoral work made Deacon Braun “a perfect fit” for the job of heading the Secretariat of Pastoral Ministries, said Lentz.

As he establishes the new secretariat, Deacon Braun will work with the directors of the various pastoral ministries to provide “outreach and pastoral care for people of the entire archdiocese and the community at large,” he said. “It’s all about how we can work together to be one face, to be more collaborative, to look at the interconnections in our ministries, and to serve parishes better.”

Deacon Braun said he is “very excited about this opportunity to serve in a different capacity in the archdiocese. There’s so much exciting potential here.”

Lentz is excited, too.

“We took a long time with this [decision],” she said. “We surveyed, went to the grass roots to get opinions—we didn’t just make it up.

“I never thought I’d say this because I always believed in total education. But I think those directors [of the secretariats] will keep it total. They’ll just be working in separate ways.

“I think it’s the right time to do this.” †

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