Pastoral ministry program in Oklahoma celebrates 30-year anniversary
The vision of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City is “Go Make Disciples.”
On Aug. 8, 2015, the Newman University- accredited Oklahoma City Archdiocesan Pastoral Ministry Program celebrated 30 years of doing just that.
The pastoral ministry baccalaureate program was launched in Oklahoma City in 1983, and
the first graduating class was in 1985. The program, which is offered by Newman in conjunction with the Oklahoma City Archdiocese, has produced 205 graduates over the past three decades. In addition, 132 individuals have received a certificate from the archdiocese for taking courses in the program to prepare themselves for more active roles in their parishes.
The program, which has since spread to Tulsa, Okla., Dodge City, Kan., and other locations, was established in response to a call from bishops for the laity to take more responsibility
in Catholic higher education, and to better prepare themselves for ministry in response to the call from Vatican II. The degrees or certificates people earn in the program prepare them to serve as directors of religious education, catechists, chaplains and other positions in their respective parishes.
According to Program Coordinator Fr. Joseph Gile, the program is mainly operated at the local level. The Newman Wichita campus will sometimes broadcast classes via the Interactive Television (ITV) network. Gile said Dodge City and Tulsa also broadcast via ITV, and Oklahoma City now uses a similar technology to broadcast classes. Gile said the strength of the program lies in each program’s ability to tailor it to their specific need.
“The needs of the church in Oklahoma City are not the same as in Dodge City,” Gile said. “[Local programs] can really identify what they need and then train people to meet those needs. If the program didn’t exist, the presence of the Church would be really reduced. It provides a vital connection for people.”
Diane Koorie, RSM, who is in her 15th year as program director in Oklahoma City, said one of the most significant things she has seen is the exponential growth in the program. She said the technology they have implemented has enabled the program to serve students from up to eight different locations in the area at a time, which has made it possible to offer courses in a preferred sequence.
“I’d say our numbers have grown at least 75 to 80 percent in the last two years,” Koorie said. “We used to have class sizes in the 40s and now we see around 80 to 90.”
Koorie said the program sees a wide variety of students, such as candidates for the diaconate, those seeking continuing education opportunities or personal enrichment, and individuals who are seeking or currently hold a position of leadership in ministry. She said the program’s major focus is theological formation, but it also aids in the human, pastoral and spiritual formation.
“We see all sorts of people ranging from their 20s to people in their 70s serving in a variety of capacities in the parishes: Catholic teachers, youth ministers, pastors, RCIA, and other ministry leaders. These are all people who are looking to develop theological formation.”
Koorie said the growth of the program speaks well of the community, the archdiocese and the commitment of Newman University.
“Newman’s commitment to the program is such a grace,” Koorie said. “Loretta Gegan,
(ASC) way back in the early ‘80s said: ‘We have got to do something to prepare people for ministry in the Church.’ To think it is still continuing is a real tribute to both Newman and the archdiocese.”
Gile said he believes the program has become everything Newman expected, and more.
“It provides an invaluable service to the Church and to these people. It’s a vital lifeline between the parishes and their people and Newman and these churches. It’s amazing the connections the program creates. We want Newman to be a provider of theological resource for the region, and this program provides that for us. We are able to be that regional theological presence across state lines.”
Celebration includes Mass, reflections
About 40 people attended the 30th anniversary celebration of the Oklahoma City pastoral ministry program, which was hosted by Newman University and the Archdiocesan Office of Pastoral Ministry on Aug. 8.
Among those attending was former Newman Board of Trustees Member Archbishop Paul S. Coakley, who celebrated the Eucharist and had lunch with the participants. The event included a brief program that covered some of the history of the program and current activity, and greetings from Newman President Noreen M. Carrocci, Ph.D. and theology faculty members in Wichita, who were unable to attend.
Following lunch, a small group discussion of what the program meant to the graduates was led by Newman Director of Development for Sciences and Health Sciences Therese Wetta, ASC, who attended the celebration with Newman Senior Development Officer David Alexander. The discussion included reflections from graduates going back to 1994. Most focused on a simple desire to know more about their faith.
“Several people who have gone through the program spoke on how they were blessed or how their lives had been changed as a result of the program,” Wetta said. “Folks celebrate this program with much gratitude to Newman for providing the opportunity not only to grow theologically in preparation for their involvement in the parish, but also how their hearts were touched and how they spiritually grew from this program.”