New Program grew out of two former efforts Print
Around the Diocese
Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009 -- 12:00 AM

Second in a series

MADISON -- The Seat of Wisdom Diocesan Institute is a new program of Catechetical Certification and Adult Faith Formation in the Diocese of Madison.

In an effort to clarify and improve the effectiveness of diocesan catechetical efforts, the diocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis (OEC) proposes unifying the missions of what was previously referred to as the Diocesan Lay Institute (DLI) and the current Formation of Religious Education Ministers (FOREM) by subsuming both into the new “umbrella” Seat of Wisdom Diocesan Institute.

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In so doing, the OEC aims to achieve the ends of both efforts with greater relevance, effectiveness, and accessibility, said Patrick Delaney, OEC associate director.

Background on FOREM

FOREM was designed “to prepare catechists to serve in the ministry of Catholic education.” It was “intended for Catholic school (principals and) teachers, parish (directors and coordinators of) religious education, catechists, youth ministers, all those involved in any form of adult religious education, and education commission/committee personnel.”

In compliance with educational standards of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference (WCC), FOREM offered three levels of certification — basic, intermediate, and advanced — each of which requires a certain number of course hours in each of four categories: Sacred Scripture, Theology (Doctrine), Methods, and Christian Spirituality.

Only the FOREM basic level specified systematic topical material to be covered for certification at that level; the other levels simply required accumulation of ad hoc course hours within the four categories.

Diocesan standards required certain levels of FOREM certification for particular catechetical roles, and each individual was responsible for his or her own record keeping.

Reasons for restructuring

Delaney pointed out, “This certification requirement has not, in recent years, been effectively provided, nor, therefore, rightfully expected to be fully pursued and achieved by those involved in the apostolate of catechesis.”

Several factors have also emerged which logically lead to the restructuring now underway, he said.

First, many who work in religious education found it difficult to meet expected requirements. It was possible to accumulate numerous course hours at the intermediate and advanced levels without ever acquiring the systematic fundamentals required for basic certification.

Relatively few course opportunities have been offered at the basic level. Some found it difficult to understand what was expected of them, to keep proper records, or to apply for certification had they received acceptable formation elsewhere.

Adults seeking formation

Secondly, many adults who are not necessarily interested in helping with the formal work of catechesis are nonetheless seeking a deeper understanding of the basics of their Catholic faith. “A good number of these come from smaller parishes without substantial existing adult faith formation opportunities,” said Delaney.

Over the last decade, the diocese has attempted to address this need for adult education by involving interested laity in the Lay and Diaconate Institute (2000 to 2004), and more recently (since 2006) with the OEC’s establishment of the Diocesan Lay Institute (DLI).

In many respects, the DLI’s objectives of providing a means for faith formation overlapped with those of the FOREM program, particularly in the course categories of Theology (Doctrine), Sacred Scripture, and Christian Spirituality.

“For these reasons, it seems prudent at this time to unify the diocesan DLI and FOREM efforts with a renewed and joyful apostolic vigor,” said Delaney.

Desiring to clarify the transition, the OEC has designed a new umbrella institute —  the Seat of Wisdom Diocesan Institute — which will fulfill the objectives of both efforts with a refined structure of course offerings and certifications along with a greatly enhanced accessibility.

For more on the Seat of Wisdom Diocesan Institute, go to the Office of Evanegelization under “Ministry” at Classes begin September 8 and are held at various sites.

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