‘Everyone Has a Gift to Give’
Three years of intensive theological study and pastoral formation have come to an end for fourteen lay ecclesial ministers who will be commissioned by Bishop Noonan on June 2nd. With formation now complete, commissioned lay ecclesial ministers, who represent twelve parishes throughout the diocese, will begin anew the work of God in their home parishes.
“The fact that these ministers come from across the diocese, gives a sense of the unity and diversity of our diocese-a concrete sense that there is a church beyond their parish,” says Dr. Carol Stanton. “The network they are building will strengthen our diocese.”
The Commissioned Lay Ecclesial Ministry (CLEM) program, headed by Dr. Carol Stanton and Father Ben Berinti, located at San Pedro Center in Winter Park, is a ministerial formation program that offers lay people the opportunity to come together as a small Christian community, to develop their gifts in the service of ministry, and to create a ministerial project that is tailored to the needs of their parish.
Pam Flesch from Our Lady of Hope Catholic Church in Port Orange, who just completed the program, says lay ministry is calling from God.
“The CLEM program opens your eyes to see that everyone has a gift to give. Now, I have a new boldness I never had before. It’s the Lord,” she continued.
Together with her pastor, Pam started a program called Seeing God Through the Tears, a bereavement support structure for people who have had a recent loss.
“We have great funeral planning in our parish, but when everyone is gone after the funeral, we as a community need to reach out, show them we care, see if they need anything, and help them connect to others,” says Flesch. She has put together a team to contact people, to write cards and make phone calls, so that those who need it will have an ongoing connection to the parish
Gloria Russo will also be commissioned in June. Speaking of her fellow ministers she says, “We are a family. We go deep in spirituality, learn who we are, where we come from and know better our church.” Russo, whose parish is Resurrection Catholic Church in Winter Garden, moved to the U.S. from Brazil fifteen years ago. Her CLEM project was part of an ongoing effort to help Brazilians feel at home in the Diocese of Orlando.
“I wanted to work in social justice for immigrants, to provide them with opportunity and rights,” says Russo. “Many people have left homes and family behind and they need support integrating into the Catholic and American communities. If some of them have to return, we provide them with information about how to return and get the support they need when they get there.”
For Randy and Bernadette Pinto of Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church in Indialantic, the CLEM program was the continuation of a lifelong commitment in their spiritual life and their marriage of forty years.
“We grew up as a married couple and our ministry work evolved with our family” says Bernadette a mother of six men, all married. “We followed our kids through the different stages of their lives, doing youth ministry and now marriage ministry. Through the CLEM program, we have finalized our formation.”
For their CLEM project, they sat down with their pastor, who was disheartened by the number of marriages failing and developed a marriage enrichment workshop to support marriage ministry called “US in Marriage: United as Sacrament in Marriage.” Using music, scripture and dialogue, couples come together to take a break from the world so can renew their commitment to marriage and improve communication skills. Each couple is asked to bring their wedding picture which is on display during the weekend, setting a marriage affirming tone.
After commissioning, lay ecclesial ministers will continue the work they started in the CLEM program at their parishes.
“They represent a great cross section of our diocese,” says Dr. Carol Stanton. “They are wonderful ministers already in their parishes, the best of the lay ecclesial ministry, and even better after 3 years of intense study. It has been such a privilege to work with them, and I am humbled by the work they do.”
All are invited to the Commissioning of the Lay Ecclesial Ministers by Bishop John Noonan during the celebration of Mass at St. James Cathedral on June 2, 2012 at 11:00 a.m.