by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – If you are thirsty to learn more about the Catholic faith and to be mentored to become an effective disciple, Christmas has come early.
A gift has been given to you.
The donation is a partnership between the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and the Catechetical Institute at Franciscan University of Steubenville through its online learning platform: franciscanathome.com.
All Catholics in the Archdiocese can benefit from it – and it’s free.
Bishop Joseph F. Naumann announced the partnership to archdiocesan pastors on March 18. Pastors learned about the e-learning platform during online workshops on April 5 and 7. Nearly 90 parish and ministry leaders from 44 parishes received training during workshops May 5 and 7 at the Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas.
“I am really excited about this opportunity for us to partner with the Franciscan University,” Bishop Naumann said during the April 7 workshop. “I think over time we have tried to provide training. Our teachers do this in a very organized and intentional way through the School of Faith.
“One of our challenges is how to ensure the formation of those who serve as catechists, especially for our [parish] Religious schools. Most do it on a voluntary basis, and sometimes, depending on the geographical location of the parish, it is difficult for them to access the programs that we could offer here. [at the pastoral center in Kansas City, Kansas].”
In addition to distance, another major obstacle to the formation of catechists has been time. Both of these barriers are removed by the Franciscan at Home platform because learning comes to students at the time of their choosing.
The approach of the Catechetical Institute is adaptable. It can be done individually at home or in a group at the parish or at school.
“The Catechetical Institute is our non-degree, on-the-job, multidimensional, online-supported training for those who transmit the faith,” said Mark Ginter, Liaison Officer for Strategic Partnerships at the Catechetical Institute at Franciscan University.
The church considers anyone who transmits the faith — especially parents — to be catechists, not just those who teach in parochial religious education programs, Ginter said.
But for now, the Catechetical Institute partnership will focus on those working in particular areas of ministry such as RICA directors, religious education directors and coordinators, catechists and teachers, leaders establishment and youth ministers.
Some of these catechetical leaders will become mentors for others, especially parents, who will participate in the future. Once the foundation is established in each parish and school, all Catholics in the archdiocese will be able to open an individual account for the Catechetical Institute.
“There are so many good things available that the hardest part was figuring out which of the ministry streams we were going to promote first,” said Pam Riordan, archdiocesan consultant for children’s catechesis. It facilitates partnership.
The Catechetical Institute is not a program, but an approach, Ginter said. The focus is not on degrees or diplomas, but on training, discipleship and relationship building – so participation can continue indefinitely. The characteristics of this approach are that it is local and adaptive, framed, substantial and engaging.
Once a person has created an account, they choose an area of ministry interest, or track, to pursue.
Although the Catechetical Institute offers 16 streams, the Archdiocese uses 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 made up 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 begin, according to Ginter. This is a gradual launch. People will be added as mentors are identified and trained. The Archdiocese has already set up accounts for all parishes and schools, so Catholics can set up their individual accounts that allow them to access the platform.
“It’s an opportunity to grow in faith,” Riordan said. “It will help each person individually and in their ministries. People can do it in a way that suits them. That’s why people should be excited about this approach to training.