by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — If you hunger to learn about the Catholic faith and to be mentored for effective discipleship, Christmas has come early.
You’ve been given a gift.
The gift is a partnership between the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and the Franciscan University of Steubenville’s Catechetical Institute through its online learning platform: franciscanathome.com.
All Catholics in the archdiocese can benefit from it — and it’s free.
Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann announced the partnership to archdiocesan pastors on March 18. Pastors learned about the online learning platform at online workshops on April 5 and 7. Nearly 90 parish and ministry leaders from 44 parishes received training at workshops on May 5 and 7 at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas.
“I’m really excited about this opportunity for us to partner with Franciscan University,” said Archbishop Naumann during the April 7 workshop. “I think over time we’ve tried to provide formation. Our schoolteachers do that in a very organized and intentional way through the School of Faith.
“One of our challenges is how do we provide formation to those who serve as catechists, especially for our [parish] Schools of Religion. Most do it on a volunteer basis, and sometimes, depending where the parish is located geographically, it’s hard to for them to get to programs we might put on here [at the pastoral center in Kansas City, Kansas].”
In addition to distance, another significant barrier to forming catechists has been time. Those two barriers are eliminated by the Franciscan at Home platform because the learning comes to the students at a time of their choosing.
The Catechetical Institute approach is adaptable. It can be done individually at home or in a group at the parish or school.
“The Catechetical Institute is our nondegree, field-level, online supported, multidimensional formation for those who hand on the faith,” said Mark Ginter, strategic partnership liaison fellow at the Franciscan University Catechetical Institute.
The church regards anyone who passes on the faith — especially parents — to be catechists, not just those who teach in parish religious education programs, said Ginter.
But for now, the Catechetical Institute partnership will focus on those who work in particular ministry areas such as RCIA directors, religious education directors and coordinators, catechists and schoolteachers, school leaders and youth ministers.
Some of these catechetical leaders will become mentors to others — especially parents, who will participate in the future. Once the foundation is established at each parish and school, all archdiocesan Catholics will be able to open an individual Catechetical Institute account.
“There are so many great things available that the hardest part was figuring out which of the ministry tracks that we would first promote,” said Pam Riordan, archdiocesan consultant for children’s catechesis. She is facilitating the partnership.
The Catechetical Institute is not a program, but an approach, said Ginter. The focus is not on grades or degrees but formation, discipleship and relationship building — thus, the participation can continue indefinitely. The characteristics of this approach are that it is local and adaptive, mentored, substantive and engaging.
After a person establishes an account, they choose an area of ministry focus, or track, to study.
Although the Catechetical Institute offers 16 tracks, the archdiocese is utilizing seven: Catechist, RCIA, Catholic Schools, Parish Catechetical Leader, Youth Ministry, Certificacion Basica Para Catequistis and Especializaciones Ministeriales.
Each track contains video workshops. Each workshop is composed of segments. Each segment has a video and a task component.
It is up to each parish or school, through its institutional leader, to decide when and how the Catechetical Institute will start, according to Ginter. This is a gradual launch. People will be added as mentors are identified and trained. The archdiocese has already established accounts for all parishes and schools, so Catholics can establish their individual accounts that allow them to access the platform.
“This is an opportunity to grow in faith,” said Riordan. “It will help each person individually and in their ministries. People can do it in a way that works for them. That’s why people should get excited about this approach to formation.”