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Online Edition - June 2006
Vol. XII, No. 4

New Lay Formation Institute to Open in Kansas City

A new diocesan program of lay formation and adult Catholic education has been established by Bishop Robert W. Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph. Named the Bishop Helmsing Institute in honor of the third bishop of the diocese, the new Institute will offer courses for certification for laypeople working in parish or diocesan positions, and also for personal enrichment. The coursework will be rooted in Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Fathers of the Church, Magisterial documents and, in particular, the documents of the Second Vatican Council.

In his letter of April 10 announcing the new Institute, Bishop Finn said it was fitting that it be named in honor of Bishop Charles H. Helmsing, bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph from 1962-1977. He died in 1993. Bishop Finn wrote:

“I have decided to put the new work under the title of Bishop Charles Helmsing, third bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph, who courageously fostered the full implementation of the Second Vatican Council and who was, at the same time, a champion of the integrity of Church teaching”, Bishop Finn wrote. In 1968, Bishop Helmsing stood strongly in defense of the faith against forces that would splinter the Church by dissent.

“I can only hope that the Bishop Helmsing Institute will carry forward a legacy that has been rooted in the great gift of the Council, which brought renewal and enthusiasm to the Church those 40 years ago, and which continues to form and inspire our efforts today”, Bishop Finn’s letter said.

Diocesan Vice Chancellor Claude Sasso, who guided the year-long study of adult faith formation needs, said that the first courses could begin as early as September, but that the first task is to hire a director of the Institute by the start of the diocesan fiscal year on July 1.

Many details of the program will be left to the new director to implement, Sasso said, noting that the diocesan Adult Faith Formation Planning Commission had outlined a six-semester, three-year curriculum for certification, modeled on the structure of the Catechism that includes such course work as prayer and spiritual growth, Articles of the Creed, marriage and family, the Old Testament, the Gospels, tools for evangelization and catechesis, Church history, and the Church’s social doctrine, as well as electives in parish life and leadership development, and in Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.

Students may take the entire three-year course, or individual courses without being required to take the entire curriculum.

“A very big thrust was to insure that people not necessarily interested in certification for professional lay ecclesial ministry” have access to courses offered by the Bishop Helmsing Institute, Sasso said. All courses will also be offered on-line, although all participants will be required to attend a certain number of classes in person. Individual courses can also be taken to sites around the diocese, depending on the needs of individual parishes and deaneries. A Spanish language component will be offered.

Education, Prayer, Social Doctrine
The Bishop Helmsing Institute will incorporate three divisions:

The Education Division will provide “a program for systematic catechetical and faith formation with a curriculum that serves both the general public who could take individual sub-courses, and those seeking catechetical certification in lay ecclesial ministries”, according to the Adult Faith Formation Planning Commission’s final report.

The Prayer Division would “coordinate retreats, prayer group formation and spiritual/liturgical workshops”.

The Social Doctrine and Parish Life Division would provide resources and opportunities for lay participation in various apostolates throughout the diocese. It would also plan workshops and practical experiences for students enrolled in the Education Division curriculum.

Institute Seeks Director
The diocese is seeking a director of the new Institute who is an established scholar with recognized contributions to the field of theology, and who will teach and author courses in the Institute’s integrated core curriculum, to begin in July 2006. A Ph.D. in Theology or S.T.D. is required. Applicants should be conversant with patristics, moral theology and all magisterial teaching. In addition, applicants should demonstrate experience in pastoral settings, a knowledge of and commitment to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, competency in Latin or Greek desirable, ability to travel regularly, management and leadership skills, and the classroom skills appropriate to the educational needs of a markedly diverse student body.

The successful applicant will be committed to the educational mission of the diocese, which is the education of the whole person in the Catholic liberal arts tradition, as articulated in Ex Corde Ecclesiae, Veritatis Splendor, and Fides et Ratio.

Applicants should submit a letter of application, a short statement relating their philosophy of teaching, curriculum vitae, official transcripts, and three letters of recommendation to: Rhonda Stucinski, Human Resources Director, Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, 300 East 36th Street, Kansas City, MO, 64111. Electronic applications are preferred and should be sent to stucinski@diocesekcsj.org. Review of applications will begin upon receipt and continue until the position is filled.

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