Wednesday, June 9, 2021
Ana Rodriguez Soto - Florida Catholic newspaper
MIAMI | John Stone converted to Catholicism in 2017. He has spent every minute since then learning more about his faith.
A parishioner at St. John XXIII in Miramar, he joined the Knights of Columbus and their Knights on Bikes motorcycle group. He also just became one of the graduates of the archdiocesan School of Lay Formation, a two-year program aimed at forming lay men and women “who desire to grow in their understanding of the Catholic faith and in their ability to serve the Church.”
“As a Knight and (member of) Knights on Bikes, we want to be able to minister to our brothers and give them a deeper understanding of our faith,” said Stone, who also expressed an interest in the permanent diaconate.
He and fellow St. John XXIII parishioner and Knights on Bikes member George Gutierrez were among the 228 graduates of the two-year program who received their completion certificates from Archbishop Thomas Wenski during a Mass celebrated June 5, 2021, at St. Mary Cathedral.
The graduates encompassed two classes. Those who started in 2018 and finished in 2020, and whose graduation ceremony was disrupted by COVID-19; and those who started in 2019 and finished in 2021. Also due to the pandemic, the 2021 class received their last year of formation online, even though most of them registered for the in-person courses at centrally located parishes: St. Bartholomew in Miramar, St. Brendan in Miami and St. Andrew in Coral Springs. The weekly courses were held in English and Spanish at all three locations as well as online.
Of the 107 members of the class of 2020, 28 took the online courses in English and 12 took them in Spanish; 35 took the in-person courses in Spanish at St. Bartholomew and 32 at St. Brendan. Of the 121 members of the class of 2021, six took the online courses in English and 13 did so in Spanish; the rest took them in person in Spanish: 34 at St. Andrew, 26 at St. Bartholomew, and 42 at St. Brendan.
Jose Cruz and Anabel Ascencio from St. Stephen Parish in Miramar were among the 2020 graduates who took the courses in Spanish at St. Bartholomew. Both already serve as extraordinary ministers of holy Communion and coordinate a group called Salvador del Mundo (Savior of the World) which meets monthly for prayer and to support parish projects.
“We want to better serve our parish,” said Cruz, a roofer by trade who also helps keep the parish buildings free of leaks. “We want to learn about our Catholic faith and be better servants.”
Ginelle Dysha Ferrol, a member of Christ the King Parish in Perrine, is a 2021 graduate of the English online class. “It was very convenient,” she said, as classes were not held at a specific time. The local facilitator who taught the class posted assignments which participants had one week to complete. Then the group met with the facilitator online for more reading and discussion.
Ferrol, who was already involved in the choir at her parish, said because of the classes, “I grew in my faith, and it also will give me the opportunity, with what I learned, to contribute where it’s needed.”
“This is actually something that will personally help me for the job that I do,” said Susana Yllanes, religious education coordinator at Epiphany Parish in South Miami and a graduate of the 2021 in-person class in Spanish at St. Brendan.
“Certainly, we never stop learning,” Yllanes added. “It’s a journey that we’re on until the end of our life.”
In 1977, the Archdiocese of Miami became the first in the nation to establish an Office of Lay Ministry. Its goal was to form and commission lay people to answer their baptismal call to service in their churches and communities.
The School of Lay Ministry, renamed School of Lay Formation a couple of years ago, now counts nearly 5,000 graduates, some of whom have gone on to earn master’s degrees in pastoral ministry or religious studies from Miami’s Catholic universities, Barry and St. Thomas. Many of those degreed graduates have returned to offer their services as professors and facilitators in the program, which helps keep the tuition within reach of most of the Catholics in the archdiocese.