It’s early on a Saturday morning and a large group of people of all ages and from all walks of life gathers in the Catholic Education Office Conference Centre.
The group is listening to Father Paul Cashen MSC talk about homiletics as part of one of the Ministry Formation Program’s (MFP) many seminars.
Tee Ping Koh is one of the attendees, with his wife Maryanne, having been a part of the MFP for three years.
Tee Ping is a retired pharmacist and said he was used to looking at everything scientifically and never thought the program was for him – even rejecting the first offer to be a part of the MFP.
“I was approached to join a while back but I ignored it,” he said.
“But after a while I felt like it was something I might like to do, so I gave Margaret Speechley a call and was accepted into the program.
“When I joined, I realised this is what I should be doing, it was like one of those light bulb moments. I am very comfortable doing this course.”
Alfred Donat is a candidate for the Permanent Diaconate and has been a part of the MFP since 2014.
He said it wasn’t just the learning that made the course so special but the sense of community.
“I think the most important thing is the community itself because we support each other,” he said.
“The structure of the course is also really really helpful.”
Bianca Cotton is also a student with the Ministry Formation Program having joined the program after taking on the role of pastoral associate for the Aberfoyle Park parish.
She has been managing the course around her role with the parish while also raising four children. While challenging at times, she said the program had provided the opportunity to grow in unexpected ways.
“It has been really enjoyable for many reasons. One reason is being able to connect with other people,” Bianca said.
“You get to meet and work alongside other pastoral associates, chaplains and people from different ministries.
“You have likeminded people sharing their stories with each other in a comfortable and safe environment – growing together with each experience.
“The Ministry Formation team is so supportive; they recognise that each of us is on our own individual journey. They are also very supportive of families, which is a huge thing for me.
“I had two very young children when I first joined the program and have had two more during and that’s while doing my job and studying.
“But they’ve been very supportive every part of the journey including offering child minding for some sessions.”
She added the course was great for giving her new ideas to take back and share with the parish, whether it be from the teachers or fellow students from other parishes.
Former MFP students also sing the praises of the MFP.
“The program has helped me to understand the importance of my faith and where God fits in with my life and ministry,” said Franca Parente, a hospital chaplain, mother and wife.
“The studies have enriched my faith life, and my understanding of what it means to be a Catholic Christian,” said another past student and retired pastoral associate, Margaret Daly.
Current student, Mandy Bosson, said that she had learnt so much about herself and the studies had taught her a lot about her journey with God.
The MFP was established 13 years ago, following on from the Church Ministry Program.
It aims to help people within the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide to become leaders in their own parishes and communities, as hospital and prison chaplains and in youth ministry. The MFP offers a variety of courses which include Certificate in Ministry with Graduate Theological Studies and a Certificate in Practical Ministry.
The Practical Ministry Certificate is aimed at those who want to communicate Jesus wherever they may be and provides essential skills for actively contributing to the life of the parish or community.
These courses are either two or four years in duration however they can be tailored to fit in with work and personal life.
“The important thing for us is that we are trying to work around people’s lives and are making the program as flexible as possible,” said MFP director Margaret Speechley.
“People have a family life and we think that this is a gift they bring with them. And many people have full time work.”
Regular seminars are also held to ensure the four pillars of formation – pastoral, theological, spiritual and human – are addressed over a four year period.
The MFP program works with the Australian Catholic University to provide post graduate theological study either as face-to-face intensives or as online options.
The Archdiocese also has a partnership with Dayton Catholic University in Ohio where short courses are offered covering scripture, theology, pastoral and human development.
Margaret said it was fantastic to see how the program had grown and developed over the years. She said word of mouth was a major influence when it came to publicising the program.
For more information on the courses available or to apply visit www.adelaide.catholic.org.au/ministry-formation or call Margaret Speechley on 8152 7803.Jump to next article