Archbishop's Legacy Includes LEMs, Deacons
Friday, May. 29, 2015
The Congar Institute for Ministry Development celebrates eight years of collaboration with Bishop Wester in the Diocese of Salt Lake City.
Our work in Utah began at the same time that Bishop Wester was installed. We helped Susan Northway assess and strengthen the Lay Ecclesial Ministry formation program; we helped Maria Cruz Gray to develop and implement the Emaus Plan for formation of Spanish-speaking lay pastoral leaders; we have provided continuing formation events for pastoral leaders; we assisted with the development and implementation of the Spanish-language diaconate formation program; we are facilitating the diocesan pastoral planning process, Charting our Course; we are assisting the efforts to provide future formation for more lay ecclesial ministers and deacons in Spanish and in English. We have been at Bishop Wester’s side supporting his episcopal pastorship from Day One.
In this 10th year of our existence, we are grateful that we have been able to realize fully our mission of partnering with local churches in the formation of lay pastoral leaders in the Diocese of Salt Lake City through our work with Bishop Wester.
Because our work is rooted in the vision for lay ecclesial ministry expressed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in the 2005 document Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord, it is no surprise that we found a ready partner in Bishop Wester, who served on the Bishops’ committee that produced the document.
From the beginning of his tenure in the diocese, Bishop Wester recognized the great value that this collaboration of 12 Catholic religious congregations and ecclesial institutes could bring to the diocese. Catholic religious congregations of women and men have historically made a tremendous contribution to founding and building up the church in Utah. Yet, many of them have had to downsize or even withdraw their presence in recent years, even as the Catholic lay population exploded in Utah.
Bishop Wester saw that the new style of ministry offered by the collaborating congregations through the Congar Institute would assist him to prepare for the future of the Church in Utah by transferring the knowledge, skills and experience of women and men religious and other highly qualified lay ministers to trusted and called lay ecclesial ministers permanently residing in the state. He recognized that the charisms of these collaborating congregations could in this way continue to enrich the Church in Utah.
As Bishop Wester prepares to move on to the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, where the Congar Institute is already at work assisting with advanced formation for Spanish-speaking lay ecclesial ministers, we salute his vision for the Church in Utah and his courage to implement that vision. Part of the great legacy he leaves here is over 100 commissioned lay ecclesial ministers, most of them Spanish-speaking, all of them well-formed, ready and eager to serve the Church in collaboration with their pastors, vicars, and deacons.
Due to Bishop Wester’s wise leadership, he will continue to have a significant impact on the diocese through these excellent ministers whose vocations he recognized, called forth, and properly equipped. They will miss his wise and humble leadership, but they will continue his good work.
Another aspect of his legacy that is very important to him is the diocesan pastoral planning process, Charting Our Course. By asking the Congar Institute to help design and facilitate the process, he expressed his vision of a participative Church where all the baptized share responsibility for its activity and being.
Although the fruit of that work will be different now, the plan that is nearing completion will be a precious gift to the incoming bishop. He will have the benefit not only of a great deal of information that has been collected, but also the voices of the people of the diocese, expressing their hopes and dreams for the Church in Utah. He will be presented with their vision of what direction the Catholic community needs to take in prayerful response to the signs of the times.
Bishop Wester is being taken away from the diocese too soon for many of us. Certainly, there are aspects of his various initiatives that have not yet come together. But the pieces are all there, waiting for another wise and humble shepherd to put them together for the sake of a wonderful future for the Catholic Church in Utah.
Thank you, Bishop Wester, for the kind of partnership that comes directly out of dreams. You give us hope for the future, not only in Utah, but for the whole Church.
Fr. Wayne A. Cavalier, O.P.
Congar Institute for Ministry Development