By Celine Klosterman
Robin Brierly taught in a Des Moines Catholic school for 10 years, but last year, the lifelong Catholic embraced an opportunity to be a student of faith herself.
She enrolled in the Davenport Diocese’s Ministry Formation Program (MFP), which this fall will kick off its 13th year of educating and training Catholics for various ministries. Director of religious education at Immaculate Conception Parish in Colfax, she signed up in part to be able to better answer young Catholics’ questions about the Church.
“One thing I struggle with after being Catholic all my life is that you sometimes do things just because everyone has always said, ‘This is what we do.’” In the first year of MFP’s Basic two-year track, Brierly learned why Catholics partake in certain practices, she said.
“I think it’s important to teach children at a young age about our Catholic faith — for example, why we use holy water and why we receive Communion every week.” Knowing what sets Catholicism apart from other denominations and religions is especially important, she said. “That will make people want to stay Catholic.”
MFP groups offered a supportive place to ask for information, Brierly said. “You feel comfortable that no question or thought is too small or insignificant to share.”
For Dave Schnier, business manager at Prince of Peace Parish in Clinton, MFP’s finance administrator courses offered valuable information not easily available elsewhere. “You can take a human resources or finance class at a local community college,” but the course wouldn’t address information specific to those working in the Church, he said. “MFP was really one of the best opportunities for me as a business administrator to get training in areas from a Church perspective.”
In the Basic track, classes he began taking in 2008 offered information relevant to any Catholic. “This is a wonderful opportunity for parishioners who want to sink their teeth in and learn more about Scripture, Church history, theology, canon law or the sacraments,” he said. “There’s such a wealth of material available to study.”
The diocese has worked to make that study convenient. For the first seven years of MFP, all participants were required to meet two Saturdays a month at various sites in the diocese for courses taught via the Iowa Communications Network (ICN). But since 2004, videos and DVDs of ICN broadcasts have been offered for students in the English-language Basic program to watch at home. Students who do so instead of attending live ICN sessions meet just once a month for discussion.
A father of 11, Schnier said the second option made enrolling in MFP possible. “Spending two Saturdays a month away from my family was something I wouldn’t have been able to consider. The non-ICN option really helped.”
Another more recent offering — Basic Spanish-language classes held this year for the first time — made a difference for Ana Rodriguez. A member of St. Mary of the Visitation Parish in Ottumwa, she and about 30 other native Spanish-speakers have been taking monthly classes at St. Joseph Church in West Liberty.
Fellow parishioners were “really excited” at hearing MFP courses would be offered in Spanish, she recalled.
During the classes, she enjoys being able to meet Hispanics from other parishes and study Scripture in-depth. And she has appreciated learning more about the sacraments as she prepares to teach students who will receive their first Communion at St. Mary of the Visitation next year. “I know what I’m going to talk about because I’ve learned it already,” she said.
IlaMae Hanisch, MFP coordinator, said the program is open to everyone: “those who are just wanting to grow in their faith, those who are thinking about ministry, and those who are in ministry and want to have updated formation. All are welcome.”
The Davenport Diocese is offering a bilingual retreat on spirituality for everyday life. It will be held Saturday, Sept. 18, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Iowa City at St. Patrick Parish Center, 4330 St. Patrick Dr. Bishop Martin Amos will celebrate Mass at 11 a.m. The liturgy includes commissioning for people completing MFP tracks. Retreat facilitator for English speakers is IlaMae Hanisch, MPS. Retreat facilitator for Spanish speakers is Sister Jane McCarthy, OSF.
Registration is due Sept. 10. Cost is $20.
To sign up, send your name, daytime phone number, e-mail, parish and parish town with a check payable to the Diocese of Davenport to Diocese of Davenport, attn. Barbara Butterworth, 780 W. Central Park Ave., Davenport, IA 52804-1901.
For more information contact Butterworth at firstname.lastname@example.org or (563) 324-1912, ext. 265.
Ministry Formation Program offerings
Year 2 of the Basic track will begin Sept. 25 for students enrolled in the ICN format, and later this fall for participants in the non-ICN format. Formation and internships for the Parish Life Administrator, Pastoral Associate and Finance Administrator tracks will begin in September.