Equipping Catholic lay leaders
IN a further sign that a theologically educated laity will be vital to the future of the Catholic Church in Ireland, a new Diploma in Pastoral Theology course has been launched at Drumalis in Larne.
It builds on a number of adult religious formation courses already offered at Drumalis and, significantly, is accredited by the Pontifical University in Maynooth.
Baroness Nuala O'Loan, speaking at the diploma's recent launch, said such courses helped debunk the idea that "theology was for the clergy".
She said the new diploma course offered "an opportunity to study and reflect on Christian life and ministry and the way ordained and lay ministry complement each other, doing so in the company of others so that each individual spiritual journey is enriched by the journey of others".
Fr Martin McAlinden, director of pastoral theology at Maynooth, said Irish parishes "are already alive with lay leadership and ministry".
"As our Church in Ireland continues to transition from a clerical-dominated institution to one in which priests are fewer and greyer in number, parishioners will continue to discover their own priestly identity and their call to discipleship after the image of Christ," he said.
"Many who engage in ministry do so without any formal training.
"In these dioceses many people have come to Drumalis and other places to learn about their faith and to use that learning in the service of others.
"In the future a more sustained formation which honours the experience of adults and brings it into dialogue with our Christian tradition and theology will be necessary if lay people are to embrace leadership in the Church."
Quoting bishops in the United States, Fr McAlinden said: "We are entering a period of new vitality for the Church, in which adult Catholic laity will play a pivotal leadership role in fulfilling the Christian mission of evangelising and transforming society.
"For adults to fulfil their roles in this new era of the Church, their faith formation must be life-long, just as they must continue to learn to keep up with the changing world."
The diploma - which is described as "a two-year, part-time intensive course" - would, he said, "give students a professional formation for ministry".
"The course will take students on a journey into the world of pastoral theology," he explained.
"The application of theology to ministry, critically assessing religious practice and practices, articulating their own theology of ministry, developing confidence in themselves as ministers, will all be part of the journey.
"As well as academic texts, their own life experiences will be valuable text books which they bring to the programme. The learning and growth, both academic and personal, that they experience and the relationships they make will shape them as persons and ministers in the future."
::More information on the Diploma of Pastoral Theology and other courses at Drumalis from www.drumalis.co.uk and by telephoning 028 2827 2196 or 028 2827 6455.