The Lay Pastoral Ministry Institute (LPMI) of the Diocese of St. Petersburg is a program of lay leadership formation consisting of four years: an informal year of discernment, and three years of formational training. As outlined in Co-Workers of the Vineyard of the Lord, the program classes and activities contribute to the Human, Spiritual, Pastoral, and Intellectual qualities and abilities of the individual participant. The Year of Discernment, or a documented equivalent, is a requirement for acceptance into the three-year formational program. The LPMI is an on-going program in the Diocese of St. Petersburg. Each year of the four-year program is repeated annually. As each group of participants progresses from one year to the next, others will be encouraged to begin the program.
The Year of Discernment segment of the Institute was designed to accommodate lay men and women of the diocese involved in or interested in ecclesial ministry. Ecclesial ministry is understood to be organized service for which official Church leaders select and delegate the individual whose ministry carries out the mission of the Church on a parish or diocesan level. In order to enter into this phase of the Institute, the individual must be at least 21 years of age and have obtained at least a high school equivalency.
The purpose of the Year of Discernment is to provide participants with:
- a theological overview of Christ, His Church, and His ministry;
- an enriched sense of the place of the laity in the Church and in its mission;
- a focus on Christian maturity, holiness, community and formal ministry;
- a time for reflective discernment;
- an awareness of the gifts, needs, unity and diversity of the local parish Church, the diocesan Church, and the Church in the United States;
- an awareness of the gifts, strengths, weaknesses, and personality style which the individual participant brings to his/her ministry.
The Year of Discernment has been designed to address these areas by offering the registrants the opportunity to participate in eight full day sessions of input and discussion. The program concludes with a Day of Discernment that has been designed to focus on the faith journey of the individual and the possibility of continuing in the Lay Pastoral Ministry Institute. The Day provides time and space for discerning the call of the Spirit of God in the life of each participant.
The goal of the Year of Discernment is to assist diocesan leaders in identifying persons who are interested in and able to pursue the more intense three-year element of the Institute. A secondary goal is to create in adults of the diocese an interest in and a desire for on-going faith formation, leadership training, and religious education.
In order for an individual to qualify for the more intense three-year segment of the Institute, he/she must:
- have completed the Year of Discernment, including the Day of Discernment;
- have submitted an application to the Institute;
- have a letter of recommendation from his/her pastor;
- have participated in a personal interview with the Associate Director and at least one other person on the Institute’s admissions committee;
- have the approval of the Director of the Institute.
The formal three-year program will be a much more demanding experience. It will focus on developing leadership skills on a theological, pastoral and collaborative level for use in various ministries in the parishes and throughout the diocese. This segment of the Institute will follow the standards established by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Commission on Certification and Accreditation. Upon successfully completing the program, participants will be commissioned by the Bishop of the Diocese of St. Petersburg for ministry within the Diocese.
This program will not attempt specializations in ministry. Rather, it will support the individual’s pursuit of certification in specific fields as this certification is offered through diocesan or national offices. Participants in the formal program will be required to apply through their parishes. The Office of Lay Pastoral Ministry offers its suggestions for the nomination process. The Director of the LPMI will conduct a final screening of candidates. Attention will be given to leadership, service, and collaborative abilities.
The program will contain modules of studies which incorporate the following areas: Revelation; the Word of God; the Word of God Proclaimed; Theology of Ministry; Issues in Contemporary Ministry; Foundations of Liturgy; Christian Anthropology; Foundations of Spirituality; Sacraments; Catechesis; Christology; Trinity; Ecclesiology; Morality; Catholic Social Teaching and Canonical Issues.
The formational three year program is built on a tripod of theology, spirituality, and ministry. Each participant will be asked to select a theological reflection group ordinarily of no more than eight participants and a mentor. The classroom modules of study will present the theological and ministerial aspects of ministry. Each module will consist of a total of six two-hour sessions: four study sessions and two theological reflection sessions. Theological reflection sessions will be held during the third and sixth week of each module. The purpose of these theological reflection sessions is to enable the participants to reflect theologically on scripture and its application to modern day life, as well as on nationally recognized core competency skills, to make necessary clarifications, and to begin to apply what has been learned in their personal lives.
Each year will begin with a day of orientation and prayer, and end with an over-night retreat. A variety of prayer experiences will be provided throughout the year. Candidates will be encouraged to select a personal spiritual director.
By the end of the first year, the participant will be asked to identify an area of ministry in which he/she feels called to serve. During the second year, the participant will be asked to spend at least 20 hours of observation in an unevaluated, informal apprenticeship in that area of ministry. This will be done along with the modules of study and theological reflection. The third year will conclude with a formal, evaluated practicum in the chosen area of ministry. This will be done with the advice and under the direction of the Coordinator of Ministry Formation Placement and with the agreement of the pastor.
Prospective candidates should be aware that, while the approval of the individual’s pastor is a requirement for entering the program, there is no guarantee that the individual will be offered a position within the parish or the diocese upon successful completion of the program. It must also be noted that, since the Institute will focus on collaboration in ministry, the diocese, the parish, and the individual will be expected to share equally in the tuition costs of the program.