Saint Clare Center program enriches Baar's ministry
by Emily Czaplewski, '21
In his 2014 Synodal Declaration, Archbishop Jerome Listecki offered the following exhortation: “It is imperative that we provide structured educational (and) formational programs in lay ministries for service to the Church.”
As a response to this growing need in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, the Saint Clare Center for Ministry and Leadership launched its Certificate in Catechetical Ministry program. The Certificate program – now a part of the Center’s new Lay Ministry Institute – was designed specifically for directors of religious education (DREs), youth ministers, and other faith formation staff members.
Held weekly at Cardinal Stritch University’s Fox Point campus, the non-degree program offers participants the chance to explore the theory and methods of catechesis over the course of four semesters, along with the practical tools necessary for leading faith formation and ministry programs.
Many lay ministers in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee have pursued a Certificate in Catechetical Ministry through the program, including Taylor Baar, who shared how his experience with the Saint Clare Center helped enrich his ministry during COVID-19.
Often, lay ministers discover the Saint Clare Center through word-of-mouth and networking, which is how Taylor first heard about the Certificate program. After a coworker brought the Certificate program to his attention, Taylor wanted to learn more.
“I was curious to hear what they discussed in the program.”
Once he found out what the program entailed, Taylor was ready to dive in.
“I love to learn, and I would be in school for the rest of my life if I could!”
Taylor enrolled in the Certificate program in 2018 and finished up his last semester in the spring of 2020, experiencing the challenges COVID-19 posed to learning and ministry as both a student and an educator.
Taylor currently serves as the Director of High School and Family Ministry at St. Anthony on the Lake Catholic Parish in Pewaukee. He primarily organizes high school formation opportunities, including retreats, mission trips, and service experiences, and he also works with St. Anthony’s intergenerational religious education program.
Due to COVID-19, their religious ed program has adapted to a hybrid model, and Taylor now helps facilitate the different pieces of their virtual and in-person ministry.
“It’s been a wild year.”
Since making the switch to a hybrid model, Taylor has been focusing on creating engaging virtual activities and safe in-person activities.
Asked about the practicals of ministry in 2020 and beyond, he shared, “A lot more small group work, distanced, but the mantra is short, simple, and safe.”
Despite the challenges posed by a pandemic, St. Anthony’s is finding creative ways to adapt, and Taylor’s experience in the Certificate program helped equip him to lead and serve parishioners of all ages.
To help families with younger kids engage their faith through the new religious ed model, St. Anthony’s created a program where small groups of families can meet virtually. The ministry staff records discussion-starting videos to kick off each session, and then the families share about their own experiences and thoughts.
“It’s a way to really help build community and keep people connected.”
Much as the Saint Clare Center relies on lay instructors to help mentor and form participants, the St. Anthony’s staff recognized that they could not run the hybrid religious ed program alone, so they invited and equipped members of the parish community to join them in the mission.
The virtual events created an opportunity to “lift up and empower parishioners to be the group facilitators,” and Taylor emphasized that, without the work of wonderful parishioners taking the lead, the hybrid religious ed program could not happen.
At a time when volunteer efforts and participation would seem to be at a low, St. Anthony’s has found a way to not only offer engaging faith formation, but also to raise up servant leaders in the parish community in a very practical way, where parishioners can take what they learn and immediately apply it to a ministry that will help their parish thrive.
Reflecting on the Saint Clare Center’s similar model of raising up leaders, Taylor shared that the program’s focus on practical applications for ministry had first sparked his interest in enrolling.
“I loved how some of the stuff they were talking about in class could be applied to their ministry, immediately.”
The content of the courses could also be tailored to suit the interests and needs of participants. One semester offered the opportunity to choose a track focused on child, family, or youth ministry, and Taylor spoke highly of the instructors, especially Maureen Rotramel, who co-facilitated the youth section.
“The content was presented in a very pastoral and applicable way.”
All the facilitators and teachers were “people who have experience in ministry and Catholic education. To have them share their wisdom and experience was very valuable.”
The educational element of the formation Taylor received was paramount, but he also shared that one of the most impactful parts of the program was the community of participants who journeyed together.
“I was with a similar group of people for at least a year or two. (This) gave me the ability to network with other lay ministers so that I could learn and grow with them.”
Reflecting on what he learned through the program and how it has shaped his ministry, Taylor emphasized the importance of exploring faith development in a deeper way.
“The program helped me understand the more academic or intellectual side of things, and not just the experiential. I now have a foundation to explain what we do, and why we do them.”
Having discovered the Certificate in Catechetical Ministry program through the witness of his coworker, Taylor knows how impactful the testimony and encouragement of another person can be.
Asked what he would tell a fellow lay minister who was considering the program, and why he would recommend it, Taylor shared the following: “I would say it’s always important to continue to learn and grow and be formed, and this is a great way to do it, with coworkers who are experiencing the same challenges and sharing the same joys of serving youth and families. It’s a great way to enhance your ministry.”
If you or a lay minister you know are looking for a way to deepen your faith, expand your knowledge, and enliven your ministry as you journey with a community of intentional disciples, visit the Saint Clare Center’s website and explore the new Lay Ministry Institute today!